KD nets 33 points at AA Arena to cool the Heat on Wednesday night.
With Kevin Durant leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, is there still a genuine argument over who will be the MVP this season?
The 25-year-old has now scored at least 30 points in his last 12 games as the Thunder stretched their winning streak to nine games, whilst also inching closer to the Indiana Pacers in the race for the league’s best record.
Having done this all without point guard Russell Westbrook, experts believe that Durant is a certainty for the MVP award despite there being almost half a season left.
Fanatix NBA experts Sumeet Paul and Scott Hazlewood discuss whether or not James can stop Durant in the race for the MVP award.
Scott Hazlewood: I must declare right off the top of this discussion that I support the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kevin Durant is my favourite player in the league, but I don’t think that comes into play at all given how KD has been playing this season.
The man is setting a new standard we have not seen in many years. The way LeBron willed himself and the Heat to the title the past two seasons was impressive no doubt, but what Durant has done so far this season shows he has matured as a player, because in times gone by without his sidekick in Russell Westbrook, like in last year’s playoffs, he tried to do too much, ended up forcing his play and he suffered.
Sumeet Paul: Can’t argue with it, Durant’s current form and scoring streak is phenomenal. If the MVP award was handed out today, it would no doubt be heading to Oklahoma City. Much will depend on if he can maintain it, particularly when Westbrook returns, and whether or not he can guide the Thunder to top seed in the Western Conference and beyond.
However, a lot also depends on how you interpret what is MVP? For me, it also includes making your teammates better, and LeBron has proven he can do that on a consistent basis. While that is an area that Durant is striving to improve in, and has done more recently, I still think James could well force his way back into this conversation before the end of the season if the Heat wake up and go on a run akin to last season.
SH: One of the key areas of difference between the two in recent season has been on the defensive end, with LeBron coming out on top in most key statistical areas. And while statistics can only prove so much on defence with much of it being subjective, I have read that, at times, the Heat have been better defensively when James was on the bench.
The Heat have been a step off the the crazy high standard they set for themselves the past two years, and most teams would still gladly trade places with them. But your’re right, the MVP is meant to make others around him better. But I think there is proof KD is doing that with Serge Ibaka averaging 14.7 points a game (up from 10.4 career) and Reggie Jackson scoring 13.4 a game (up from a career average of 7.0)
SP: At this point, Durant is making this a one-horse race. His influence on the Thunder is greater than LeBron’s for the Heat, and they are ultimately on a successful run which history obviously shows will help decide the MVP winner. However, does Durant have to ensure Oklahoma City go all the way this year to convince everyone he is the only man for the regular season/Finals award or despite potential disappointment will he still be able to wrestle it out of James’ grasp?
SH: The longer his, and the Thunder’s streak continues without Westbrook, the point you make becomes more relevant. Fans and pundits will almost say “oh well you have to win the title now”. And while I’m sure Durant, coach Scott Brooks and the rest of the team would have felt they could have survived the Western Conference this season, the fact that the Spurs have injury problems and can’t beat other top sides, Portland have slowed after their hot start, the Clippers aren’t great away from home, the Rockets are too inconsistent and the Warriors have yet to find their rhythm.
If he becomes just a handful of player to average more than 31 points 7 rebounds and 5 assists a game, I think he deserves the regular season MVP, but the MVP for the playoffs/Finals, that story is yet to be written.
SP: LeBron remains the more accomplished of the two, whereas the path that Durant is currently on, he threatens to leave his rival, and friend, behind. As was the case with James prior to winning his first championship, it takes a collective triumph to catapult an individual to greatness and universal recognition.
While everyone respects and is enjoying what Durant is doing right now, it will take consistent success to ultimately secure him the MVP award. If the Thunder can maintain their current form then the regular season MVP award is in the bag, but much will depend on if he can perform on the biggest stage of all provided his team make it there.