When the 2013-14 NBA season began, most assumed the usual suspects would be among those worthy of MVP consideration. We have the perennial MVP LeBron James, who has won the award four of the last five seasons. We have Kevin Durant, who openly stated he was sick-and-tired of playing second-fiddle and was ready to emerge as the league's best player. We also have Chris Paul, who is in a class of his own in comparison to the league's other point guards.
This season, a few other star players names have been mentioned as possible MVP candidates, including Paul George, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and most recently Joakim Noah.
While their have been a slew of players playing outstanding basketball this season, when it comes to the league MVP Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has completely separated himself from the competition and should be voted the first unanimous MVP in league history.
Here are Kevin Durant’s season averages: 32.2 ppg (career-high), 5.6 apg, 7.5 rpg (career-high), 30.66 PER (career-high). Durant is en route to bring home his fourth scoring title with his league-high scoring average while shooting 51 percent overall and 40.9 percent from the three-point line. KD is also the league leader in Player Efficiency Rating, with LeBron a close second at 29.15.
While a down-to-the-wire MVP race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant might serve as a more compelling narrative as the regular season comes to a close, the truth is Kevin Durant has had this award won since the end of January.
During January, KD's averages were simply out of this world: 35.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game on 54.9 percent shooting and 43.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc. These superb averages came during a stint where his All-Star teammate, point guard Russell Westbrook, was inactive with a knee injury. During this stint, KD led the Thunder to a record of 20-7 without Westbrook while blazing the nets in every arena in the process.
During Westbrook’s absence, KD single-handedly willed his team to victory during multiple games in this stretch. His impressive performances include 54 points against Golden State, 48 points at Minnesota, 46 points against Portland, and 41 points at Atlanta, where he hit the game-winning shot. Additionally during January, Durant had eight other games where he scored at least 30 points.
KD’s averages during the month of February were stellar as well. He averaged 33.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists.
While there is no doubt that LeBron James is Kevin Durant’s only competition for MVP, the ESPN-fueled neck-and-neck nature of this MVP race is a mere fallacy. LeBron has done his best to close the wide gap KD put between himself and the rest of the his competition during the month of January, however there isn't any statistic that supports the notion this MVP race is close.
LeBron is having a stellar season, averaging 26.9 ppg, 6.5 apg, 6.9 rpg, and 29.15 PER. However, upon comparing his basic statistics with Durant’s, KD is clearly favored. Durant scores five more points per game, averages more rebounds, and has a better player efficiency rating. Additionally Kevin Durant leads the league in ESPN's estimated wins added statistic at 27.4, which is superior to LeBron’s 24.0.
We all know that Kevin Durant is the NBA’s best scorer, but this year his all-around game has taken another step forward. Aside from averaging career-highs in points, assists and PER, ‘The Servant’ has also become a much improved defender this season. While LeBron James has bloviated publicly about how he should win Defensive Player of the Year, advanced statistics show it is Durant who's been the superior defender this season.
According to basketball-reference.com, Durant allows 102 points per 100 possessions compared to LeBron who allows 105 points per 100 possessions. LeBron is actually having his worst defensive season statistically since 2011-12. Additionally, basketball-reference.com’s win share statistic (an estimated number of wins contributed by a player) is also in favor of Durant, who leads the NBA at 17.8. LeBron trails him at 14.1, LBJ’s lowest estimated win shares total since the 2007-08 season.
Simply put, there is not much factual support to LeBron’s claim that he should be the Defensive Player of the Year, let alone league MVP. Clearly, Kevin Durant has quietly been the better defender and is having a stronger impact on his team this season.
Another aspect of the MVP race that must be factored in is competition and overall team record. The Western Conference is fiercely competitive. 12 of the 15 conference teams are competitive night in and night out. While only 10 of the conference teams have a .500 record or above, both the Nuggets (32-40) and Pelicans (31-40) have been competitive all season, but have suffered injuries that derailed their team success. Point being, almost every single night Kevin Durant and the Thunder are facing quality teams, and wins are not easy to come by.
The Eastern Conference on the other hand is the notoriously weaker conference and has been extremely weak for the majority of the season. In the East, only six teams have winning records. Meaning LeBron James and the Heat have been coasting through games against completely inferior opponents. While one could argue that LeBron James doesn’t choose his competition and all NBA teams have talent, strength of competition must be factored into these MVP evaluations. Kevin Durant clearly has the edge here.
Now we must look at each team’s record. The Thunder are currently 54-19, good for 2nd in the Western Conference. The Heat are 50-22, good for 2nd in the Eastern Conference. If the Heat were in the West, their record would be good for the 4-seed. The Thunder will likely close the season with a better record, as they currently have four more wins and three less losses with 9 games left on their schedule. The Heat have 10 games left, but I don’t see them having enough time to close this gap between themselves and the Thunder.
With the KD having the edge in both level of competition and overall team record, this shows that Kevin Durant has done more this season under much tougher circumstances. OKC has played 33 games without their All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and has still managed to maintain the 2-seed in the rugged Western Conference and the second best record in all the NBA.
KD is solely responsible for OKC’s stellar record through adversity this season. Despite injuries to Westbrook and starters Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, Durant has been racking up the wins for his team. Durant also has 38 straight games with 25 points or more, which leaves him two games shy of tying Michael Jordan’s record of 40 consecutive games with 25-plus.
Without a doubt, Kevin Durant should win the MVP award in a landslide. Durant has positioned himself head-and-shoulders above the competition this season no matter which way you slice it. While LeBron continues to be LeBron, he has been completely outshined this season by the pure and utter greatness of Kevin Durant. Durant has completely beasted every statistical category this season, and it would be a travesty if he were not rewarded for his magnificent play.
With the narrative, statistics, highlights, game winners, level of competition and team record all on his side, Kevin Durant should be voted the first unanimous NBA MVP in league history.Back to the NBA Newsfeed