Projecting Expected Recovery Time for Kevin Durant Based Off Past Achilles Injuries in NBA

By Kevin Gamgort

In Game 5 of the 2019 NBA FinalsKevin Durant ruptured his right Achilles tendon in his first game back since suffering a calf strain against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinal.

Whether or not you blame the Warriors for the way they handled his injury, Durant will likely be sidelined for the entirety of next season and there is much uncertainty regarding whether he will ever be the same player again.

The Achilles tendon is vital towards being able to stand on your toes when walking, jumping or running. A ruptured Achilles tendon usually takes at least six months to fully heal. Once fully healed, it’s still very possible for someone who ruptured it to never gain full Achilles strength again. With this in mind, let’s take a look at other NBA players who have suffered Achilles injuries and see how they recovered from one of the most devastating injuries in sports.

Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles in 2012 as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. At the time of the injury, he was 35 years old and averaging 15 points and four assists per game. Billups returned to the Clippers during the 2012-2013 season and averaged 8.4 points and 2.2 assists per game. After his injury, Billups was never the same player again, playing in just 41 more games before retiring in 2014.

Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay was enjoying a quality 2016-2017 season before sustaining a full rupture of his left Achilles tendon in January of that season. Before the injury, Gay was averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. After sitting out the rest of the season to recover, Gay signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2017 and returned to the court for the 2017-2018 season. Over the past two years, Gay has seen a dip in his scoring production, averaging 11.5 and 13.7 points per game the past two seasons. Although Gay saw an increase in his scoring average this past year, he has not been the same explosive and impactful player he was prior to the injury.

Wesley Matthews

Matthews was averaging close to 16 points per game with the Portland Trail Blazers before tearing his Achilles tendon in 2015. The following season, he signed with the Dallas Mavericksand saw a dip in his production. Matthews is currently a member of the Indiana Pacers and since his injury in 2015, he’s consistently struggled to average more than 13 points per game and has hovered around or below 40% from the field each season. Although still an impactful role player, it’s quite clear that Matthews is not the player he was before the injury.

DeMarcus Cousins

Boogie was having a remarkable season with the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2017-2018 season before tearing his Achilles in January of 2018. Prior to the injury, Cousins was averaging a double-double with 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. After signing with the Golden State Warriors this past offseason, Cousins returned to the hardwood a little more than a year following his injury. Although productive this season, averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, Cousins has seen a significant drop in his production. Only time will tell if this drop in production is due to the injury or his situation in Golden State, where his role is diminished due to the talent around him.

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings enjoyed six straight seasons of mid-to-high teens in terms of scoring production before tearing his Achilles in 2015. After returning from the injury, Jennings’ field goal percentage and points per game dropped significantly. Before the injury, Jennings averaged 15.4 points per game while shooting 40.1% from the field. The season following the injury, Jennings averaged 6.8 points per game and shot 37.1% from the field. Following the injury, Jennings would go on to play four more seasons in the NBA, consistently shooting below 40% from the field and averaging less single-digit points per game each year. After being waived by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018, it appears that Jennings’ playing days in the NBA are over. He never returned to his old form after the Achilles injury.

Kobe Bryant

In 2013, at the age of 34, superstar Kobe Bryant was enjoying yet another phenomenal season in the NBA. He was averaging 27.3 points per game and on the road to leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the playoffs before going down with a torn Achilles on April 12th. In the most Kobe move of all-time, he got up and knocked down two free throws before exiting the game.

Bryant missed the majority of the following season, and with the Lakers struggling and Bryant still recovering from injury, he played in just six games. Bryant returned fully healed for the 2014-2015 season and averaged 22.3 points per game while shooting a then career-low 37.3% from the field. Bryant announced he would retire at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 season, a year in which he averaged 17.6 points per game and shot a career-low 35.8% from the field. Although Bryant was able to continue to put up strong offensive scoring numbers, he never returned to his former self. Instead, his shooting percentage took a major hit while his points per game average also decreased.

The Verdict

If history repeats itself, the long-term outlook does not look strong for Kevin Durant. Among the most recent players in the NBA to suffer Achilles’ injuries, every single one of them saw a dip in their production once returning to the court. It will be a long road to recovery for KD, but at the age of 30 and his superstar status, he will look to defy the odds and return to his former self for the 2020-2021 season.