Kevin Durant has won the NBA rookie of the year award in 2008, he’s a three time NBA All-Star, two time NBA scoring champion and two time All-NBA first team member. It’s time he adds the MVP award to everything else he’s achieved in the (almost) five season’s he has been in the league with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Seattle Supersonics.
Why now? Why in 2011-2012? As usual, it comes down to what do you think is an MVP. What makes someone deserves the MVP. The best player in the league, without taking into account the team he plays for, his teammates and what was the team’s record during the season?
Is it to be taken literally, meaning the Most Valuable Player to his specific team, and his worth in +/- on the win column? I mean, is Kevin Love eligible? He is putting up some incredible numbers, but it’s hard to see someone not from a good team, a contender and heading to the playoffs type of team, getting the award.
We know it won’t be Derrick Rose. The 2010-2011 MVP has missed 19 games so far this season, with his scoring dropping to 22.8 points per game. The Bulls, with or without him, and they’ve done rather well without him so far, have the best record in the NBA, 42-11. They’ve also beaten the Miami Heat without their all-star point guard.
Back to Love, who does has the numbers, but the Timberwolves aren’t relevant enough in the playoff race to actually make him eligible. Scoring 26.5 points, grabbing 13.8 rebounds, shooting near 40% from beyond the arc. He’s certainly having a great season, but life without Ricky Rubio hasn’t been easy in Minneapolis, and Love, despite beating Durant for the three-point crown on All-Star weekend, won’t be taking any trophies home, individual or for his team.
And how about Kobe Bryant? Despite everything’s that’s been said about him, about his ball-hogging and everything else, Bryant is leading the NBA in scoring with 28.2 points per game, playing nearly 39 minutes a night with more than 1300 NBA games on his weary legs and aching body. The Lakers wouldn’t be 31-20, third in the Western conference, without Bryant, for his merits and faults. But just a look at his field goal percentage, 42.5%, taking 23.4 shots per game, and it might seem the Kobe is forcing himself upon the game too much, too often. Not always doing what’s best for the team.
Surely it’d be hard to argue that Dwight Howard is the most valuable one player for a team in the NBA. I mean, the Orlando Magic might be battling for the no.1 draft spot if there was another player in the paint for them besides Howard, right? But Howard is putting up his usual numbers, 20.9 points, 14.5 rebounds. It didn’t win him anything previously, and it won’t be doing it this season.
LeBron James? A boring, easy choice. We forgot to talk about the factor, the Oscars factor. Giving the award to players who haven’t won it before, which wasn’t such a thing during earlier days, say the late 1980’s when Michael Jordan, somehow, didn’t win it in 1988. Voters have weird ways of doing stuff. LeBron could have won it last season as well, but there was the whole ‘Lets hate Lebron & the Heat’ thing going on. This year?
James might be the best defender in the NBA not called Dwight Howard. The Heat rely on his linebacking skills completely. It’s what makes them such a great defensive team. It’s what makes them such a good offensive team, the best fast break team in the league. Sure, there’s Wade and Bosh and other guys who pick up the slack without getting noticed, but it’s mostly about LeBron James. When it works, and mostly when it doesn’t.
And here comes the Kevin Durant case. The Thunder would still be a playoff team without him, but no where near title contention. Russell Westbrook, without someone who’s better than him on the team, would probably set new records for shooting attempts or at least try to. Durant has yet to win the award, but is putting up numbers similar to LeBron James, showing more and more that he’s much more than just a great scorer.
Most importantly? Clutch. He’s a guy who isn’t afraid to take the last shot, and has hit game winning shots here and there. As much as I hate to bring the All-Star game as an actual discussion tool, it did reveal character, and Durant shined through the entire game, serious parts and less. The same character we see from him each night on the basketball courts.
Being like-able never hurt. The Thunder beating the Miami Heat probably pushed him towards James in the MVP race. A win over the Chicago Bulls this week and a strong finish to the season will probably give Durant enough credit points with the voters to win his first MVP award, although it’s extremely hard to ignore LeBron James this season.