In just over a week or so, after all the “other” awards have been announced, the NBA will announce the MVP of the 2013-24 season and you are almost certain to hear the words – Kevin Durant.
It was always going to take a phenomenal season to dethrone “The King” LeBron James as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, and that is exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant has put together. A brilliant season of individual performances, a scoring title, the #2 seed in the tough Western Conference and an all around game that has been developed and crafted over many seasons and off-seasons – that is what NBA fans have been treated to this season.
And all while losing his running mate and top 10 player in the league – Russell Westbrook.
When Westbrook went down in the post-season last year, the Thunder and Kevin Durant struggled under the intense focus and pressure. Durant ensured the same thing wouldn’t happen again. He spent the off-season working hard, working on his game, adding pieces, watching film – anything and everything he could to become a better player and it has resulted in yet another Northwest Division title, another playoff appearance, another scoring title and likely a first MVP trophy.
Westbrook returned albeit it briefly and then went down again on Christmas Day. Without him, many wrote the Thunder off, pointing to the post-season and how the Thunder lacked punch without their starting point guard. It didn’t take long for Durant to make those critics re-think their predictions. What occurred throughout January and February was astounding. Durant found a way to be even better, more effective, more efficient and completely unguardable. He showcased his efforts on the defensive end of the floor, showed that his playmaking had reached superstar levels and could still score 30 points a night in his sleep.
While many will point to the scoring column – which is super impressive – there was a lot more to Durant’s season than that. Yes the 40+ game streak of 25+ point games was nice and the streak of 30+ point games delightful to watch, but you only had to see how those streaks ended to realise what really matters to KD. Both streaks ended when Durant sat the entire fourth quarter of a game the Thunder had well in hand. The ultimate professional and someone focused on team glory rather than individual accolades, that is what the basketball world saw.
Durant has managed to single-handedly win a number of games for the Thunder this season. Not just with clutch jumpers and 40 point nights, but through his ability to lead his team in every facet of the game. His rebounding has improved, his assist numbers are up and he still scored 32ppg. His leadership on and off the court has been vital to the Thunder’s season and as they embark on what is going to be a very tough series against the Memphis Grizzlies (who knocked them out of the playoffs last year) he will be asked to do it all again – and more.
The Most Valuable Player is not to be confused with the “best” player although he has certainly made a strong case as the best in the game (and if not then Durant and LeBron James are 1 and 1a). What Durant gives the Thunder is invaluable. Without him – especially this season – there is little doubt the Thunder may have missed the post-season entirely in a Western Conference that is super competitive and THAT is why Durant as the most “valuable”.
Anytime your team can lose an All Star, Olympian and top tier player and still remain not just competitive but almost top of the league competitive – something or someone has been incredible. That someone is Kevin Durant.
While LeBron James will no doubt receive a number of votes and Blake Griffin has had a very solid season, there is little doubt as to who the Most Valuable Player in the league has been this season. Durant will finally add an MVP trophy to his collection of awards and will hopefully lead the Thunder deep into the NBA Playoffs once again. Being recognised as one of the greatest players in the game will be nice, but knowing KD it won’t be enough. He will graciously accept the award, thanking those who helped him achieve it – and then he will get right back to finding a way to helping the Thunder win basketball games.