For the last few years, there have only been two candidates for MVP.
This year is no exception. Like in past years, the choice is simple: Kevin Durant or LeBron James.
Up until last Thursday, I would have picked Durant for MVP. He’s leading the NBA in scoring at 31.4 points per game. He holds first place by a large margin too, with second place Carmelo Anthony averaging 27.9 points per game.
In the past month, Durant has seemed unstoppable, putting up incredible numbers even when the focus is primarily on him. There is a supporting cast, but it’s nothing like the hyped “Big Three” in Miami.
Plus, the Thunder have the best record in the league at 43-13. The MVP makes his teammates better and has to have a successful team. Durant checks both of those off the list.
However, last week when James and Durant squared off, it was James that dominated. Now, part of this is style. Durant is a lanky, taller small forward that shoots a lot of jumpers. You look up and wonder, “When did this guy put up 40 points?” Then there’s James, whose power and flashy dunks make him impossible not to notice.
Nevertheless James ended the game with 33 points on 15-22 shooting, which is extremely efficient. This isn’t to say that Durant had a bad game as he put up 28 points on 10-22 shooting.
But when Durant and James play head to head, it always seems that James has that killer instinct. He has that competitive fire. Durant might have it, but it sure doesn’t show.
James isn’t far behind Durant in the scoring leader ladder, ranking third with 26.9 points per game. James does so much more than score though, shooting 57.7 percent from the field (the highest of the scoring leaders) and averaging 7.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
So, the counterargument to Durant’s success with OKC without a supporting cast can also work for James. He puts up these incredible numbers with an incredible amount of talent around him. That not only shows the respect from his teammates and coaches, but that he leads this team in every way.
In addition, MVPs are supposed to make their teammates better. Well, James has the assist numbers to prove that.
The Heat are currently 39-14, approximately the same record they had at this time last year. They aren’t in first place in the East, but are only two games out, so you can’t dock James for not having a successful team.
And this is when Miami turns on the jets and typically starts to take over. It happened last year and their play has certainly elevated the last few games. That all begins with James, who set the tone early against OKC, scoring the Heat’s first 12 points of the game.
James is by far, in my opinion, the best player on the planet. He’s the two-time reigning MVP, has taken it four of the last five years and is a two time reigning defending champ. It’s always tough giving the MVP award to the same player in multiple years, but James had certainly asserted his dominance on today’s game.
But has he been the best this year? That’s the only question that matters. The backstories shouldn’t matter when it comes down to voting.
If the MVP had to be picked this second, I’d probably have to go with Durant simply because he’s been consistent and unstoppable on offense. But there’s still a lot of season left. For James to not be playing his best at the beginning of the year and still be putting up the numbers he has….watch out. This is his time of year. This writer won’t be surprised if he takes home the hardware again.