While LeBron James and Kobe Bryant rested in the final days of the season, Kevin Durant kept right on doin’ work. The 21 year-old scored 31 points in Oklahoma City’s final game of the season to capture the NBA scoring title and help the Thunder win its 50th game, solidifying his candidacy for MVP.
Nobody expects Durant be named MVP—this year at least. The popular opinion has LeBron dominating the vote. The only question at this point seems to be if Durant can overtake Bryant in the race for second place.
LeBron led his team to the best record in the NBA while putting up his usually spectacular all-around numbers. But no player was more directly responsible for the success of his team than Kevin Durant.
The offensive numbers are simply astounding. Durant averaged 30.1 points this season, scoring at least 25 points in 29 straight games, the longest such streak since Michael Jordan’s 40 in 1986-1987. Durant scored at least 25 points in 73 of the 82 games overall this season. He led the NBA in free throws made by a wide margin, hitting 756 total while shooting 90 percent from the line. He canned 128 3-pointers, shooting over 35 percent from downtown.
Durant also expanded his all-around game in his third NBA season. He averaged a career-best 7.6 rebounds and posting career highs in every major statistical category, including blocks and steals.
At 21, Durant became the youngest player to every capture an NBA scoring title. It’s possible that his record will be broken someday, but probably not for a long, long time.
LeBron’s numbers—29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game—are absolutely amazing. There is no question he is the best player in the NBA. The most outstanding yes, but not the most valuable.
At 50-32, the Thunder posted a remarkable 27 game improvement from last seasons disappointing 23-win campaign. Durant was the catalyst. Russell Westbrook has emerged as one of the best point guards in the NBA and Jeff Green has shown steady improvement, but ultimately no team did more with less than the Thunder. Their success came without a decent big man and a bench anchored by two rookies and a host of veteran cast-offs.
Winning 50 games in the West with Thabo Sefolosha as the starting shooting guard? Talk about amazing.
Durant put up impressive yet irrelevant numbers during his first two seasons. Only truly special players can put up great numbers while helping their team reach great heights. Durant elevated his game to new heights this season, helping the Thunder compile one of the best seasons in one of the strongest conferences in NBA history with one of the youngest and thinnest teams in the entire league.
That’s the very definition of valuable.