Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns are set to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the NBA Playoffs and, to hear ESPN's Stephen A. Smith tell it, Durant has a lot more riding on this series than just winning and advancing:

Said Smith on the Suns' superstar, “Well, if we're going to talk about legacy with LeBron James, how come we can't talk about legacy with Kevin Durant? I think that Kevin Durant is a natural-born professional scorer. He's one of the greatest players we've ever seen in NBA history. He's got two championships; he's got two NBA Finals MVPs. But that was playing with the Splash Brothers – the most elite shooting backcourt the game of basketball has ever seen. Now, they needed him to win, because they would not have won without him. And, despite the greatness of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant was still unquestionably the best player on the Golden State Warriors.”

So, what does Smith mean when he refers to the Suns' playoff chances as critical to Durant's legacy?

“In the end, here's what it comes down to…he hasn't been out of the second round since he departed from Golden State. He never won a title before he arrived. When he departed Oklahoma City to go to Golden State, it was after they were up 3-1, and gave up a 3-1 lead, lost to the Golden State Warriors in that season that they won 73 games and ultimately lost to LeBron James in the NBA Finals. And three weeks later or so, this man is a member of the team that came back from a 3-1 deficit and beat him – which obviously created a lot of criticism aimed in his direction, led by me. Unapologetically so, I might add.”

Smith continued by breaking down Durant's playoff success, or lack thereof, with the Nets and now the Phoenix Suns – summing things up with a single question.

“What have you done since you departed from Steph Curry?”

Suns vs. Timberwolves

Phoenix Suns guard Grayson Allen (8) and guard Devin Booker (1) and guard Bradley Beal (3) and forward Royce O'Neale (00) and forward Kevin Durant (35) huddle up before the final seconds of the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center.
© Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns will take on the third-seed Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in a matchup that will feature Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal's elite shot-creation capabilities against the Timberwolves' top-ranked defense.

The Suns might be the most aggressive team in the NBA since Matt Ishbia bought the team in early 2023. A lot has changed since the Suns made the NBA Finals in 2021, with Devin Booker being the only piece that has lasted.

This past offseason the Suns revamped their roster to add more depth, add more star power with Bradley Beal, and get more consistency down low. They hired Frank Vogel after another no-show in the playoffs to improve their defense. This season has been a strange one for the Suns. They are in the top half of the league in both offense and defense and their stars steal the show with Booker, Durant, and Beal finally looking like they put it together just in time for the postseason.

This will be a huge series and postseason for Suns.