March 16, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots over Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Oklahoma won 96-85. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Is Kevin Durant the NBA’s MVP so far?

Kevin Durant has had the best season of his career so far. He’s not scoring as much as he ever has but he’s been the most efficient and his team is the best it’s ever been.

Is Durant the frontrunner for the MVP award this season?

Durant won the All-Star Game MVP last Sunday night scoring 36 points as the West outshined the East 152-149. Durant’s closest competition in winning the All-Star Game MVP is also his competition when it comes to winning the regular season MVP: LeBron James.

James is also having the best season of his career in terms of efficiency. James is shooting .547 percent from the field and averaging 27.4 points per game. Durant is shooting .513 percent and averaging 27.9 points per game.

James has the overall edge in PER with a 32.4 rating while Durant is at 27.7. James’ 6.8 assists per game compared to just 3.4 for Durant is one of the reasons for this. Both are averaging 8.1 rebounds per game.

Here are their scoring stats when it comes to point per possession:

Points Per Possession Overall Iso PnR ball handler Post Spot-up Off screen Cuts Transition
Kevin Durant 1.05 1.05 0.84 0.95 0.94 1.01 1.39 1.29
LeBron James 1.07 0.92 0.98 0.99 1.17 0.93 1.44 1.4

Below is how often they shoot in each situation:

Percentage of Possessions Overall Iso PnR ball handler Post Spot-up Off screen Cuts Transition
Kevin Durant 100% 24.1% 12.9% 8.5% 10.1% 14.0% 4.3% 14.4%
LeBron James 100% 24.2% 11.7% 14.4% 5.5% 4.9% 8.1% 20.2%

James has just a narrow edge here. From these numbers when you take a closer look at their offensive efficiency, James is benefitting a lot from Miami’s new emphasis on scoring in transition this year.

James also gets more baskets off cuts and in the post. This is because James has better passers around him and Miami’s offensive sets are better than Oklahoma City’s, which rely more on isolation.

The point being from all of this is James’ edge over Durant in terms of efficiency isn’t because he’s more skilled offensively but rather the situation that he is in. The fact that Durant is shooting almost 52 percent from the field this season should be considered just as impressive as James’ shooting numbers.

As far as team success goes, the Thunder and Heat each have a record of 27-7, the best in the NBA.

James’ overall numbers are simply better but a case can still be made for Durant. Durant does not have Dwyane Wade so defenses lock in more on him. Russell Westbrook is great but is a point guard so defenses are still able to shift more of their attention on Durant.

Last year Durant was assisted on 62 percent of his buckets and the notion was that he needed to rely on playmaking from his teammates to be such an efficient scorer. But this year he is only being assisted on 45 percent of his buckets, a huge drop off, and is more efficient than ever.

Up to this point in the season James should be the MVP. But there are scenarios that could unfold that would make Durant be the rightful MVP. Obviously if the Thunder finish with a couple more wins than Miami and if Durant narrows the gap in the PER department, he will close in on James.

It won’t take that much either. James winning the MVP would be the same story we’ve seen before. Durant winning is a new story like Derrick Rose last season. Those new stories will tend to count for more than just individual performance.

The Thunder and Heat have yet to play each other this year and will meet first on March 25 then again on April 4. The way the two play head-to-head will also weigh heavily on who takes home the hardware this year.

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Tags: Dwyane Wade Kevin Durant Kevin Durant All Star Kevin Durant All Star MVP LeBron James Russell Westbrook Thunder Vs Heat

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