By Steve Kallas
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So many people believe that the NBA season begins and LeBron James is crowned the Most Valuable Player before he’s even scored a basket.
Well, this season, things are vastly different.
While it’s stupid to crown someone MVP before the season starts (how did that happen, anyway? More on that later), it’s clear that this season, so far, Kevin Durant is the hands-down MVP. Since Russell Westbrook was injured, Durant has taken his game to a much higher level and, in terms of value to his team, has surpassed any other player.
While Durant has gone off on an 11-game streak where he has scored at least 30 points, it’s really come together for Oklahoma City in the last seven games. Those games, all victories, include road wins at Houston and San Antonio and home wins against Portland and Golden State, four excellent teams in the very deep West.
In games in which the previous iron-man Westbrook has not played this year, Durant has had to score more, averaging over six points more per game (28.6 to now 34.7), has shot slightly better with everybody keying on him (50 percent to now 52 percent) and has scored all six of his 40-plus point games without Westbrook on the court.
Why? Because he’s had to in order to give his team the best chance to win.
Oh, by the way, he’s done all of this by only taking 2.5 more shots per game (18.7 per game with Westbrook; 21.2 per game without Westbrook).
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER (MVP) v. MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER (MOP)
Many “experts” in many sports make this mistake. The MVP is not about who’s the best player. The MOP is about who’s the best player. Under no analysis is LeBron James the MVP so far this season.
This disease (giving the MVP to the MOP) is especially prevalent in baseball where, in the past, the MVP has been given to the Most Outstanding Player a number of times. Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson and even Alex Rodriguez (when he was a Texas Ranger) all won MVPs while playing for poor teams.
Just because you put up great numbers and just because you are the best player in the league, doesn’t mean you are the most valuable.
SO WHAT ABOUT LEBRON JAMES IN 2013-14?
Let’s look at the case of James this season. Without his running buddy, Dwyane Wade, this year, LeBron has been the leader of a mediocre team, at best. Wade, whose chronic knee condition is a cause for concern virtually every year now, has missed 13 of Miami’s first 44 games. That’s about 30 percent of the season, if you are scoring at home.
With Wade in the lineup, the Miami Heat are 25-6. With Wade out of the lineup, they are 7-6.
JAMES IS THE MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER IN THE NBA
This isn’t meant to take anything away from LeBron. He is the best, most talented, most outstanding player in today’s NBA. Nobody who understands basketball really disputes that.
Having said that, nobody who REALLY understands basketball thinks LeBron is the MVP of the NBA so far this season. In fact, if you had to pick somebody to be second in the MVP race right now, it would be LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland, who is a star that nobody knows about (it’s hard to believe that he’s not starting the All-Star game but, hey, Kobe was voted a starter and he can’t run). LeBron is probably third.
It’s really as simple as that.
And here’s one final thought: neither James nor Durant will be winning the NBA championship this season without their respective wingman (Wade or Westbrook).
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