Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant has not received an all-defensive honor in his historic 17-year career. Durant's coach, Frank Vogel, said his superstar is deserving of it.

“I think he should absolutely get first- or second-team [all-defense],” he said.  That's my opinion.”

Durant with the Suns is averaging a combined 2.1 stocks (1.2 blocks and 0.9 steals per game). He is No. 55 in all-time defensive win shares, which tracks defense that leads to wins.

Durant feels he should be recognized as maybe the greatest player of all time but does not have an all-defensive honor, which some see as pertinent to the recognition by fans, media and players among others in basketball.

An all-defensive honor would help Durant's GOAT case

“Why shouldn't I be in that?” Durant told AZCentral. “That's the question you should ask.”

Durant is a two-time champion, one-time regular-season MVP-winner and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. He averaged historic clips against the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, who is considered by some to be the greatest of all time.

But even though Durant is No. 10 all-time in box plus/minus, which estimates a player's contribution in points above league average per 100 possessions played, and VORP, the box-score estimate of points per 100 team possessions, he is not an all-defensive honoree like James or Michael Jordan, an NBA Defensive Player of the Year selection.

Of the 10 greatest basketball players of all time ranked by Basketball Reference in box plus/minus, Durant is one of only three players (Nikola Jokic and Magic Johnson) to not have earned at least one all-defensive honor.

The honor has eluded the 17-year great

Durant's closest vote to an all-defensive team was in 2017-18 with the Golden State Warriors, when he earned 31 combined points from voters. Durant this season with the Suns is viewed to be a candidate for a first- or second-team all-defense since he is their primary defender and can guard more than two positions.

“He's guarded the best in the league, not just crunch time, for 48 minutes,” Vogel said, “and has done a great job, night-in and night-out, and made some great lowman plays throughout the course of the season.”

Durant, who is used to playing the three, has played the four, so his defensive rating (114.4) is not aesthetically pleasing.

“We play small lineups where he's guarding the biggest ‘three,' ‘four,' each night,” Vogel said. “He's played small-ball center and defended centers, in a natural matchup. He's really done it all for us.”

As Vogel says, Durant stands out among primary defenders.

This season in's DIFF ranking, which is how Durant limits opponents below their season average, Durant has the eighth-best percentage (-3.8%) among 65-game players while covering multiple ball-handlers and bigs.

Where Durant stands out in numbers

The most important numerical calculation is defensive win shares, which is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player on defense. Phoenix's starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, ranks No. 15 while Durant is No. 27 on a Suns team that does not have a point-of-attack defender. He is asked to do multiple assignments for Phoenix.

The 35-year-old Durant has a defensive box plus-minus of 0.1, according to Basketball Reference.

Durant is also required to take on multiple tasks on the defensive end, including guarding threes, fours and fives, which cannot be said for other candidates up for the award, including Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis and Jaden McDaniels.

Furthermore, the Suns are not a defensive-minded team. But since the NBA All-Star break, the Suns have the fifth-best defensive numbers.

Arguably Durant and Nurkic are the reasons why.

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports

Voting has gone against Durant's shot-blocking, success

Durant is yet to receive an all-defensive honor in his career, even though he is required to play offense and defense to carry teams to victories.

In 2021 with the Brooklyn Nets, Durant ranked second in Opta Analyst's DRIP, which projects a player's contribution to a team's plus-minus per 100 possessions, before his ankle injury. He proceeded to receive one all-defensive vote from's John Schuhmann.

Durant is someone who has been on the winningest team in playoff history, the 2017 Golden State Warriors, but is disregarded by the media for his efforts as a rim deterrent and ability to defend no matter which stance he finds himself in.

Durant's defense was necessary for the Warriors, who went 16-1 in the playoffs, to have a shot at winning a championship. He was the best rim protector and surprisingly is yet to have an all-defensive recognition.

The Suns have all given praise to their starting small forward. Suns guard Devin Booker said this about Durant's defense.

“Just versatile,” Booker said.

“To be 6-foot-11 and switching on to smaller guards but at the same time, being able to hold your own with fives when we go to small-ball lineups, you can't replicate that.”

Phoenix Suns
Credit: Ed Szczepanski – USA TODAY Sports

Durant's been the best defensive player for the Phoenix Suns

The statistic may not apply for voters, but VORP and box plus-minus are statistics that showcase one principle: winning the basketball game.

Durant is a winner.

“This fan base is looking forward to cheering for a winner,” he promised at his introductory press conference. “I want to go out there, prove every night that we got a chance to win.”

He has been the healthiest member of the Suns' Big 3 and took on a defensive role without a true point-of-attack piece.

Phoenix's forward since he has arrived has been under a microscope for every move. The former OKC Thunder, Warriors and Brooklyn Nets superstar was claimed to be “frustrated” by ESPN in December, but has responded only with a continuous demonstration of basketball that has proven the Suns are championship-caliber.

Durant's top competitors for the award are among the more accomplished basketball players in terms of VORP. The statistic is a box-score estimate of the points per a team's 100 possessions that a player contributed over the average above-replacement level, -2.0.

The 35-year-old Durant is considered the Suns' only serious candidate for an all-defensive award, and his strong play before the Suns got himself, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal on the floor must receive some recognition. His VORP ranks No. 14 in the NBA and only behind one perceived candidate for an all-defensive first-team, Anthony Davis.

Durant's view of the award

What did Durant say about his all-defensive honor potentially?

“Me, just trying to do my job and not make any mistakes. I know that's hard to do in a basketball game, but my mindset is to be perfect, and if I fall underneath that, that's usually pretty good for the team. When I'm in my stance, when I'm helping my teammates out, I usually have a good game on offense, too. Just starting the game on defense has always been something I try to hang my hat on.”

Durant also was asked by AZCentral how he views a potential all-defensive honor.

“I mean, of course I'm not going to sit here and downplay accolades in the NBA,” he said. “It's 10 players that get on each team, and to be in that company would be incredible.

Would an all-defensive honor advance Durant as the greatest of all time?

Durant in his year-plus with the Suns has lifted them to championship expectations. Even though he played eight regular-season games before the 2023 playoffs, Durant and Phoenix still pushed the defending-champion Denver Nuggets to six games. He averaged 29 points on just below 48 percent (47.8) shooting and 2.2 stocks (o.8 steals and 1.4 blocks) in the postseason.

“All that really matters to me is the trust that I get from my teammates and coaches,” he said. “…If I get rewarded for it or get accolades for it, that's cool, too.

Durant's numbers won't stand out above Gobert, Davis and Bam Adebayo, who are expected to be first-team picks by many voters. He is not averaging the same number of blocks as Victor Wembanyama and by far trails Gobert by defensive win shares. But Durant's win-share total is much better than Herb Jones, who is considered the best lockdown defender in the NBA. He is also higher in that statistic than Jrue Holiday (No. 35), Kawhi Leonard (No. 41) and Cleveland Cavaliers reigning first-team all-defensive award-winner Evan Mobley (No. 47), even though he is active for just 49 games this season.

Durant's defensive win-share number is eighth among perceived contenders at his position, trailing Gobert (No. 1, 5.9), Davis (4.6, No. 4), the San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama (No. 5, 4.4) and Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (No. 10, 3.9), among others. It is important to note all-defensive teams are positionless but people at Durant's position may be weighed against one another for spots.

“I'd be real disappointed if he doesn't get that,” Vogel said.

Durant said he will continue to focus on winning, no matter what his legacy reflects to others.

“I can keep moving on, keep getting better and be secure in myself knowing my teammates, coaches trust me,” Durant says.