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The Warriors’ system is turning Kevin Durant into a more complete player

Golden State is asking Durant to do more work off the ball than he ever did in Oklahoma City. So far, so good.

NBA: Preseason-Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

We’re all waiting to see how Kevin Durant adjusts to playing a different style of basketball now that he's with the Warriors. Based on early preseason returns, it won’t take long for him to fit in.

After not looking particularly sharp early in preseason, he has looked much more comfortable on offense over the last few games. He's starting to figure out what the Warriors need from him and how to help the offense in ways he didn't in Oklahoma City.

That is a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.

Durant is moving better without the ball

Durant left a team that put the ball in his hands all the time. Naturally, the biggest adjustment he has to make, by his own admission, is staying active when he doesn’t have the ball.

“When I’m off the ball, [I need to be] always cutting, always trying to free up my man, free up another guy to get a good shot for the offense," Durant told The Mercury News. "That’s something that’s very, very challenging, but it’s needed for me to be the complete basketball player that I want to be.”

Durant used to be able to call for the ball and hold it in Oklahoma City. He averaged 53 front court touches per game and over three seconds of possessions per touch, two of the highest marks in the league for non-guards, per SportVU. When he was off the ball, he either stood around spacing the floor waiting for Russell Westbrook to break down the defense or worked off screens going from side to side to make himself available. Maybe there was a pindown at the block. That's all that was asked of him.

That was OK in the Thunder's simpler offense, but it’s not enough in Golden State. The Warriors rely on their players reading the defense and staying in constant movement even if they aren’t expecting to get the ball. Durant will still get his chances to do his thing, but his role has changed. Instead of sharing touches with just Westbrook, he now has to coexist with three other NBA All-Stars. That means remaining active even when he doesn't have the ball.

That doesn't come naturally to Durant, but he's working hard to make it a part of his repertoire. While he still hasn't looked as in tune with the flow as some other Warriors, he's clearly making an effort to keep the offense from stalling by acting as a decoy and using misdirection to get open looks for himself and others.

It's important for Durant to intuitively understand the Warriors’ offense, because he might not get the type of touches he was used to with the Thunder. He will get to isolate players at times, but he will also need to score on looks generated by his teammates and to create scoring opportunities for others without the ball. The best way to do that is to always remain engaged and moving.

Using Durant as a screener makes the Warriors' offense even more dangerous

In addition to his movement, Durant will need to set more screens and execute dribble hand-offs, especially when he plays power forward in small lineups. Warriors coach Steve Kerr will try to leverage Durant's gravitational pull to generate open looks for others. When Durant screens, the other team needs to switch or have his man stay attached to him. That means his teammates will have a shot at going at a bigger, slower opponent and more space before having to face a help defender.

That's a big departure from the role Durant had with the Thunder. In Oklahoma City, he would occasionally run pick-and-roll with Westbrook at the top of the arc, but that was a much simpler two-man action on the ball. Even in small lineups, the Thunder had Andre Roberson doing most of the off-ball screening to hide his lack of range.

In Golden State, though, Durant must set many more kinds of screens and use his gravitational pull off the ball to help his teammates. That’s an unfamiliar role for him, but he seems willing to adjust so far. The Warriors have proved that when they execute their way, even the best defenses spring leaks. If Durant continues to buy in, more leaks will spring because his mere presence is a threat.

All they need is for their new addition to fully buy into their style. So far, he has.

“There’s a lot I need to learn about the game of basketball,” Durant admitted. “I’m not as smart as I thought I was about the game.”

As long as the former MVP keeps that attitude, it should be easy for him to adjust to his new surroundings and for the Warriors to get the most out of him. Durant will continue to be one of the deadliest scorers in the NBA, but this season he will has the chance to make just as big an influence off the ball.

If that happens, Golden State's offense will go to yet another level, as impossible as that sounds.