Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider ranks his MVP contenders and has KD second, Westbrook fifth: “If he can hold off Anthony in the points per game column, Durant will become the first scoring champion in NBA history to also be a card-carrying member of the ultra-exclusive .500/.400/.900 shooting club. And unlike Anthony, Durant is no longer qualified to be a “pure scorer;” the OKC forward’s repertoire is now bolstered with additional skills such as passing and defense. For instance, Durant has more triple-doubles this season alone (three) than Anthony has in his entire career (two). Compare Durant’s numbers this season to Dirk Nowitzki’s 2006-07 campaign and you won’t be able to tell the difference. Nowitzki won 83 of the 129 first-place votes to win the MVP that season; Durant may get zero this season. Because of the next guy on the list, the possibility is there that Durant may never win an MVP, but the 24-year-old (24!) remains a good bet to go down as one of the all-time leaders in MVP-caliber seasons. Remarkable player, remarkably poor timing.”
Chad Ford’s first mock has OKC taking Alex Len: “The Thunder get this pick from the Raptors (which the Rockets received as part of the Kyle Lowry trade only to move it on to OKC as part of the James Harden deal) as long as the Raptors aren’t picking in the top three. Oklahoma City needs to find a long-term replacement for Harden at the 2 and a long-term backup for Kendrick Perkins at the 5. Len seems like great value here. He’s one of the two or three biggest players in the draft, has a decent offensive game and can rebound and block shots. It really feels like he’s scratching the surface. The Thunder can afford to bring him along slowly and hope he develops.”
Rob Mahoney of SI.com ranks offensive performances: “Durant technically needed an overtime period to set this career high in scoring, but there’s room to forgive such a caveat with a player so persistent off the dribble. Scorers of Durant’s caliber are known to get a favorable whistle or two, but he racked up a whopping 21 foul shots in the Thunder’s 117-114 win because he consistently attacked Dallas’ best perimeter defenders. Vince Carter has had a fine defensive season, but he was out of his league in covering a player with every conceivable physical advantage. Shawn Marion has generally done quite well in guarding Durant, but he was too generous with his contact on this night. Durant took advantage and left no points at the charity stripe in what wound up being a very competitive game, which made each of his 52 points matter a great deal.”
Note: Two of the top five came against the Thunder.
Adam Reisenberg of ESPN.com with lessons of #NBARank: “Obviously the player on whom the panel agreed the most was LeBron James, who received a 10 from every voter. Using standard deviation, we can find that the next most agreed-upon players were Kevin Durant (who received exclusively 10s and 9s), Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Excluding injured players, the player with the largest standard deviation was J.J. Hickson, who had a high rating of 8, a low rating of 1, a median of 6 and a standard deviation of 1.27. So good luck trying to calculate what his contract will be this offseason.”
Amin Elhassan of ESPN Insider says Victor Oladipo is a fit with OKC: “Oladipo is an athletic, scoring guard who can get into the paint and finish with power. He doesn’t have great court vision, but he is able to get into the paint and make plays from what develops. His sheer speed and explosiveness with the ball make him tough to corral, but he definitely would add a missing element to Oklahoma City’s bench. Even better, he’s a terrific on-ball defender, which would give the Thunder another defensive option on the wing along with Thabo Sefolosha. As with all of the Thunder’s draft picks, the pressure to come in and produce immediately won’t exist as long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are healthy, so Oladipo would have time to develop along with Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, giving Oklahoma City a trio of young, high-caliber talents off its bench. Perhaps in a year, Oladipo and Jones III would be able to run a second-unit version of the vaunted Westbrook-Durant pick-and-roll.”
Darnell Mayberry on last night’s game: “Unsung play of the game was when Ibaka took back momentum with an offensive rebound and putback with 4:13 left in the third quarter. The Jazz had just gotten away with a goaltend and Derrick Favors got a three-point play at the other end. It was a five-point swing that turned what should have been a 12-point Thunder lead to a seven-point game. When Ibaka put in that stick-back, it put the Thunder back up by nine and took the air out of both Utah’s sail and its crowd.”