Kevin Durant has never won a Most Valuable Player in the NBA. Will this be the season that KD finally pushes LeBron off his throne?
With only a handful of games left in the NBA season, the MVP race is really heating up and it has come down between two men: LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
LeBron James is a four-time NBA MVP and is arguably the best athlete in basketball, but after this season it looks like his MVP total will remain at four. In my eyes, Kevin Durant is doing too many remarkable things to be left at the altar.
While James may be the most gifted athlete in basketball, Durant probably has the best shot in the league as his length allows him to shoot over any defender, from anywhere on the court. Not only does he have a step-back jumper that would make Larry Bird jealous, but he also has an incredibly creative ability to drive to the basket and make tough baskets look easy.
For the past few seasons, Durant has been number two to LeBron, despite putting up some great numbers, and finally Durant has gotten sick of it. Durant has been putting his team on his back all season and is the reason why the Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder sit second in the Western Conference with a 51-18 record.
LeBron’s team (Miami Heat) isn’t too far behind with a 47-21 record, but with similar win records, these two teams don’t even compare. The Western Conference is far more superior than the Eastern Conference as only five teams in the West have a losing record, compared to nine teams in the East.
The Miami Heat are reigning two-time NBA champions, but they only have a 28-13 conference record. The win-loss record is good, but compared to the quality of teams they are playing it isn’t that great. Durant’s team has a 29-12 conference record, which is a parallel towards just how well Durant has been playing this season, as he and his team have had to go up against colossal opponents night in and night out.
Durant’s team record is great but we haven’t even scratched the surface yet towards his individual play. Basketball is usually won and lost by an individual player and Durant has been the reason why his team has been winning so often this season.
In 68 games played thus far, Durant is averaging a career high 32.2 points per game, while also recording 7.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. While his point total this season is his career high, he is also averaging 2.2 assists more than his career average. Durant has been scoring more often this season, but at the same time he has been helping the rest of his teammates score more.
The biggest statistic that jumps out to show why Durant is so valuable this season is his win shares. Win shares is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player and his total this year sits at 17.0 which is the best in the NBA and is 3.7 more than LeBron.
Durant has also gotten to the free-throw line more than any other player in the league, leads the league in points, is 16th in the league for total assists — which is incredible for such a perennial scorer — and also has the eighth best defensive win share total in the NBA, which shows how valuable he is on both sides of the floor.
Durant has also been so valuable to OKC because of the injury that happened to Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is OKC’s starting point guard and a three-time NBA All-Star, so after he was injured it looked as if OKC would have trouble winning games.
However, the opposite happened and since Westbrook’s injury on Dec. 27, 2013, which kept him injured till Feb. 13, Durant has taken his game to a new level contributing eleven 40-point games (including a career high 54-point performance on Jan. 17) since Westbrook’s injury. In addition, he currently has scored 25-points or more in 34 consecutive games, which is only second to Michael Jordan’s NBA record of 40 consecutive games.
With statistics that only compare to some of the NBA’s greatest, Durant should be named the 2013-14 NBA MVP. Move over LeBron, there’s a new king in town.
Let’s get one thing straight here; Kevin Durant is having one of the greatest seasons of all-time, and surely the best of his young career. His scoring numbers are off the charts, he’s rebounding better than ever, and he is helping his Oklahoma City Thunder to one of the top records in the Western Conference. However, one thing Kevin Durant is NOT, is the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2013-2014 National Basketball Association (NBA) season. That distinction belongs to none other than four-time MVP and two-time defending champion LeBron James.
While the race is certainly as close as it has ever been between the two (Durant has finished second twice to LeBron in MVP voting), the fact remains that LeBron is the best basketball player in the world.
Although the case for Durant as MVP is largely centered around statistics and his gaudy scoring numbers, the case for LeBron is all about efficiency. LeBron is without question the most well rounded player in the league, changing the game at both ends of the floor and doing so with incredible efficiency.
The stats support this claim too. While Durant may average five more points per game than LeBron, LeBron attempts significantly fewer shots per game to achieve his scoring numbers. Durant takes on average three more shots per game than LeBron, not to mention two additional three-point attempts and three free throws per game. Durant shoots just over 50 percent from the field, while LeBron is shooting an incredible 57 per cent, a mind-boggling number for a primarily perimeter player. On top of that LeBron actually leads Durant in true-shooting percentage, a number that factors in all different types of shots on the floor. This might surprise some, considering Durant is widely regarded as the best scorer in the NBA. In fact, if one was to extrapolate LeBron’s number of attempts per game to equal Durant’s, LeBron would actually be averaging a higher number of points on average (something LeBron admitted himself).
However, what is so different and special about LeBron is that he is among the best in the world at all areas of the game, not just scoring. On top of his nearly 27 points per game, LeBron is also averaging 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals, which are higher than Durant’s numbers. LeBron does trail Durant in rebounds by less than one per game, however his offensive rebounding numbers are higher. Did I mention all this is while playing fewer minutes per game than Durant?
While some will argue that Durant is better than ever at making his teammates better based on his career high 5.6 assists per game, his numbers pale in comparison to LeBron in this area. This happens to be the first season Durant has averaged over five assists per game in his career, while LeBron has never averaged below five in a season (11 straight years). On top of that, LeBron has a higher assist/turnover ratio than Durant, a stat often used to measure passing ability.
When it comes to the defensive side of the floor, LeBron is head and shoulders above Durant. While Durant is no doubt improving in this area, he has a ways to go to reach LeBron. LeBron is able to guard every position on the floor, a skill almost no one else in the NBA possesses. LeBron has finished in the top five in defensive player of the year voting each of the past two years, including second place last year. Whether it be shutting down 2011 MVP point guard Derrick Rose, or providing a help-block on All-Star center Dwight Howard, LeBron can do it all on that end of the floor.
Despite all these stats, Durant is still likely to receive the MVP award for this season, unfortunately. Voters tend to have a penchant for change, especially when it comes to the MVP award, something Derrick Rose’s 2011 MVP award can attest to. Whatever the outcome, know this; LeBron is the best player in the NBA and should take home his fifth MVP award, albeit in a close vote.