I started putting together this post, something to try and make a case for Kevin Durant as MVP, sometime in early March. To me, the MVP race still had considerable separation between Durant and his top competitor, but buzz was building for that guy in South Beach.
And while the greater goal for Durant is to be raising a banner at the end of the season, with three runner-ups for MVP, and his insistence on being done being second, winning the top individual award would be quite the accomplishment. Being MVP of the NBA is, in my mind at least, the second most prestigious individual award in sports, behind only the Heisman. When you’re the best basketball player in the NBA for a season, you’ve done something.
For Durant to go and finally pull the MVP from the hands of the consensus world’s best player, I thought it was going to take some convincing. Something strong, something good to prove that Kevin Durant not just had the best individual season in the NBA, but that he meant more to his team than anyone else, regardless of public opinion about who the actual best player is.
There’s also this idea that LeBron James “coasted” this season, therefore almost conceding the MVP to Durant intentionally. That’s an inverse way to try and discredit the historic offensive season Durant had, to somehow throw water on the fact he’s about to average 32-7-5. Durant had not just the best season in the NBA in 2013-14, but one of the best we’ve seen in the last 15 years. It’s not a question of if Durant will win the MVP. The only things to wonder is how big the distance in voting will be, and who finishes third.
So here on April 15, all of those words don’t seem necessary anymore. Because KD made the case himself.
Here’s his resume:
- Averaging 31.9 points on 50.4/39.3/87.3 shooting splits, with a 63.6 True Shooting percentage, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and a PER of 29.94.
- He’s only the third player ever to score 2,500 points, grab 500 rebounds and have 400 assists in a single season. The other two: Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. In fact, Durant is only six rebounds away from making it 2,500-600-400.
- KD led the league in win shares, at 19.0. LeBron was No. 2 with 16.0. KD’s win shares are currently the 21st most in NBA history. LeBron has only topped 19.0 win shares in a season twice (2008-09, 20.25 and 2012-13, 19.3).
- Here’s what KD’s going to lead the league in this season: points per game, total points, field goals, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts, minutes, PER, usage percentage, offensive win shares, win shares and win shares per 48 minutes.
- The Thunder without Russell Westbrook: 25-11. (With: 33-12.)
- The bulk of the time the Thunder had to deal with playing out Westbrook was from Dec. 26 to Feb. 20, when he returned after the All-Star break. During that time, the Thunder went 19-7, which included a 10-game winning streak. Durant over that 26-game stretch: 35.0 points on 52.7/39.9/87.8, 7.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
- With KD on the floor this season, OKC scores 109.5 points per 100 and allows 101.5. When he’s not, OKC scores 101.9 and allows 98.3.
- Quantifying and understanding defense is really difficult, but that’s always been one of the biggest checks Durant has needed on his total player resume. This season, without question, Durant has elevated his defensive impact, finishing 10th overall in the league in defensive win shares (4.5), ahead of players like Dwight Howard and Taj Gibson. Per Synergy, opponents shot just 28 percent from the floor against KD in isolation (h/t Zach Lowe). Durant isn’t quite a stopper, but in terms of increasing his defensive reputation, he’s taken a major step in the right direction.
- Durant led the league in 20-point games (76), 30-point games (45), 40-point games (12) and 50-point games (two).
- Durant scored 25 points in 41 straight games, which is half of an NBA season. LeBron? He had 47 total games this seasons coring 25 or more.
- Durant had three triple-doubles. Only Lance Stephenson (five), Kevin Love (four), Joakim Noah (four) and Stephen Curry (four) had more. LeBron? He had one.
- There were four 30-10-10 triple-doubles this season. Durant had two of them.
- Durant led the league in clutch points (last five minutes, margin within five) with 163.
- The Thunder were without three starters for 77 combined games this season, meaning they playing more than a quarter of it with only two regular starters. And still are sitting on 58 wins, second in the West.
But hey, LeBron scored 61 that one time.