Earlier this week odds for which player will win the 2012-13 NBA MVP award came out. Not surprisingly, LeBron James was the heavy favorite at 9/5 odds.
Kevin Durant had the second best odds at 15/4.
LeBron definitely deserves to be considered the favorite but that doesn’t mean he’s the only one who can win the award and Durant does have the best chance to steal the hardware from him.
How can Durant do this? It’s going to be very hard for Durant to put up better all-around numbers than LeBron and finish with a higher PER. How likely is it for Durant to beat out LeBron?
The MVP award doesn’t always go to the most deserving player in terms of a stat like PER, which is a pretty decent way to say who had the best season. There’s more to it. MVP voters seem to always be looking for a fresh face or the better story to rationalize giving it to someone else. It happened when Michael Jordan was in the league and it happened two years ago when Derrick Rose beat out LeBron for the award.
Durant will have this working for him and that’s why he will have a great chance. Durant is widely considered the second best player in the league right now behind LeBron and finished second in the MVP voting last season.
Team success always plays a big part in winning the award. There was a reason Kevin Love was not in the conversation for MVP last season despite the fact that his numbers were off the chart and he was extremely valuable to his team.
Part of the formula for Durant beating out LeBron for the award will be the Oklahoma City Thunder having a more impressive regular season than the Miami Heat. This is very possible as the Heat have underperformed to an extent in the regular season in each of the last two seasons. If the Thunder can roll through a very deep Western Conference and win more games than anyone else, Durant will be in prime position for the award.
Durant will also need to show some statistical improvement from last year. This is easier said than done as Durant posted a career-high in true shooting percentage last season and shot nearly 50 percent from the field.
Durant’s shooting percentages looked like this: 49.6 FG, 38.7 3-point, 86.0 FT. If he can creep closer to and flirt with 50-40-90 while still scoring as much as he does, he will make a strong case for beating out LeBron.
One of the things most admit that Durant does better than LeBron is score. He needs to really separate himself from LeBron in this light. If it’s a case where Durant averages 28 per game while LeBron is right behind him at 27, it will be hard to talk yourself into voting for Durant over LeBron. But if it’s Durant scoring 30 a game with LeBron around 26, then there’s a significant gap working for Durant’s case.
Durant also needs to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio. He has yet to have a season where he has had more assists than turnovers. Last year, he averaged a career-high 3.5 assists per game and he needs to build on that while cutting down the turnovers as well.
Another big improvement made by Durant last season was his growth as a closer late in games. He really became clutch during the playoff run last year and hit a few game-winners along the way. If Durant can have some big time, memorable clutch moments this season, it will really work in his favor in the MVP race.
Durant has the right personality to win over voters, he is right on track statistically to win the award and the Thunder are good enough to finish as the top seed in the West. A lot needs to go right for Durant to beat out LeBron for the MVP award next season but he has as good a shot as anyone.