Now that the All-Star game is in the rearview mirror, you’ll begin to see the NBA’s elite turn their casual marathon jog into a full on Olympic 100-yard dash in an effort to get the best playoff seed for their team and get some individual hardware to add to the trophy case. Definitely expect to see LeBron James and Kevin Durant jockey for position in the Most Valuable Player race. It’s pretty much safe to say that they are the frontrunners for the coveted award and one of them will hold the bronze statue high by the end of the regular season (honorable mention going to Paul George and Stephen Curry). But this year, I’m counting on the man of many nicknames to edge out King James.
While the Heat recently went into Chesapeake Energy Arena, put the Thunder over their lap, and gave them a butt whipping to remember in the form of a 22-point blowout victory, don’t let that take away from the work of art that Durant has painted so far this season. On his canvas so far, the self-titled “Servant” has racked up twenty-five 30-point games, seven 40-point games, and even a 50-point game. That’s a total of 33 games where he’s gone over 30-points, and the Thunder are only 56 games into the season. Simply put, it is absolutely INSANE for anyone to get buckets like that in 59% of their games.
Aside from the Durantula’s three scoring titles, and clearly on his way to a fourth with the highest point per game average so far this year at 31.4 (3.9 points ahead of Carmelo Anthony, who is 2nd on the list), the Thunder are sitting atop the Western Conference in first place with a record of 43-13. In a conference stacked with talent and the top nine teams posting winning percentages of .500 or better, he is calmly playing the role of captain, and steering the ship the Thunder sail on into championship contention. Mind you, this is being done in a conference where a team with a losing record is not even in the playoff picture! Compare that to the Eastern Conference where at 26-28, the Washington Wizards are 5th. Too bad for the Minnesota Timberwolves who have the same record in the West, but are 10th in the standings. With more games against inferior competition in the East this year, James is in a position to benefit from inflated statistics unlike Durant who has to earn his keep on a nightly basis.
Still think the Slim Reaper is not worthy of the MVP? His head-to-head duel against LeBron last month definitely says otherwise. Aside from getting the W in Miami, Durant annihilated anyone in his path, especially King James. If James pressed up into Durant’s space, a quick cross-over/pull-up jumper combo was used to shake off the defense. When an ounce of space was given to KD, the result was nothing but the bottom of the net. KD was feeling so good that he was even pulling from 24 and 25 feet to nail three pointers. Also on display were runners from the free throw line and spin moves for easy twos, which had LeBron looking like he has no business on the NBA’s All Defensive First Team. After the smoke settled from the scorched twine, the box score read 37 points on 52% shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals for the former Texas Longhorn. More importantly, he put the NBA on notice that he was on another level, was laser-focused on the MVP award, and hell-bent on getting his first championship ring.
Another bullet point for KD35’s MVP campaign is the fact that he has been playing without Russell Westbrook for much of the season. Yes, while replacement point guard Reggie Jackson is holding it down quite nicely as Westbrook recovers from knee-surgery, he’s no three-time All-Star. On top of that, Westbrook’s explosiveness and ability to play above the rim minimizes the defensive attention that is focused on Durant. Without #0 in the lineup to relieve some of the pressure, Durant has been seeing double teams (and even triple!) in most contests, which makes his level of play this season even more impressive.
James is having another outstanding year, which is no big surprise. Everyone gets that he is an unstoppable force, the best player on the planet, and is a four-time MVP. With that said, should Durant’s leap in output and importance to his team this season be overlooked? Should the NBA just continue a monotonous trend of MVP selections, give “The Chosen One” his fifth MVP in six years, and avoid bringing in some new life into the number one player discussion? Hopefully these questions are answered in the negative. Bron will have more cracks at the MVP, and will likely get a few more under his belt by the time he sets off into the sunset. But as far as this year goes, it’s time for a fresh face to enter the MVP ranks, and what better player, and an even more deserving candidate, than Kevin Durant.