Even though there’s no real argument about Kevin Durant and LeBron James being the two best players in the NBA, fans and media alike love to throw out alternatives to the MVP award. Chris Paul is always mentioned, with Kevin Love and Blake Griffin getting a nod or two this season. Paul George was on the radar ealier in the year, and so were LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis.
But while numbers from these guys, point guard, small forward and power forwards, which is pretty much the new center considering the direction the NBA is headed, LeBron James and especially Kevin Durant this season, unless something quite extraordinary happens in the next month, are a bit above the competition.
Durant has talked about getting tired of finishing second all the time. It might be too early to suggest his quest for an NBA championship will be over after seven seasons in the league, but it might be safe to say that his wait to finally finish above LeBron James in the MVP voting will come to an end sometime during the postseason, when they announce the winner.
Durant is going to win the scoring title, currently averaging 31.8 points. He has also shown another side to him – that of the all-around player, averaging 7.6 rebounds per game and 5.5 assists a night. The Thunder had to go through him more than before because of Westbrook’s injury and possibly simply trying something new with their offense, and Durant has answered the call most of the time by doing the right thing whenever he found a situation too difficult for him to score out of, although that hasn’t happened a lot.
LeBron James might still be the better player, but he isn’t having the better season. Averaging 26.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists, some feel he and the Miami Heat in general might be coasting this season, but it just might be something else. In his 11th NBA season, after three consecutive years of playing in the NBA finals, maybe James is slowing down, or simply experiencing some aggregate fatigue, hurting him suddenly late in the season.
Our brains always tell us that in order for someone to be truly the best, he has to become an NBA champion. Maybe Durant won’t enjoy that honor until he actually takes the Thunder towards a ring, but an MVP this season, with James finishing a not so close second, might help him in that concern, even if he is tired of being compared to James all the time.
After winning four MVP awards in the final five seasons, I don’t think James is going to feel too distraught about “letting one slip by him.” He knows the road to glory and eternal greatness, which he has achieved in a way after a decade in the league, goes through the number of rings on his finger, not the number of golden men with basketball trophies he has in his house. Maybe we shouldn’t be judging players by championships, but most of the world does, and all the MVPs in the world won’t change that.