I’m almost certainly going to be ridiculed for saying this, so I ask for forgiveness in advance, but I’m not quite sold on Kevin Durant‘s MVP legitimacy.
I know, I know. He’s currently averaging a league-best 29.5 points per game and is already a three-time scoring champion, he’s shooting 49 percent from the field (pretty impressive for a guy who shoots mostly jump shots), and he’s averaging what would be a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game.
Still, he’s not my MVP, not as long as LeBron James is in the league, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, averaging close to seven assists per game, and knocking down over 40 percent of his three-pointers.
I could write a whole column debating LeBron vs. Durant for MVP, but I’m not going to do that. Why not? Because, if I had a vote, KD wouldn’t even be second on my MVP ballot. To me, he’s being vastly overrated by seemingly everyone in the basketball world.
Yes, I said it. Kevin Durant, overrated MVP candidate. And I mean it.
With Russell Westbrook out of the lineup, Durant is struggling to earn Ws (despite the gaudy stats), just like he was exposed during the Western Conference Semis against the Grizzlies, when he came up short in fourth quarter after fourth quarter (without Westbrook) en route to an abrupt playoff exit.
Since Russell underwent his third knee surgery in eight months, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been a completely different team. In fact, in 12 games without Westbrook this season, the Thunder have lost five times (including four times since his latest surgery), compared to just four losses in the 25 games that he has played.
On New Year’s Eve, the Thunder held a seven-point lead after three quarters against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Durant registered only one point and went 0-for-5 from the field in the fourth, resulting in a 98-94 Oklahoma City loss. Two nights later, the Thunder again led going into the fourth — this time by 11 against the Brooklyn Nets — and failed to close the deal, as Durant scored just four points in the quarter. And, last week, Durant allowed his team to lose to both the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets, two teams that are heading further south by the day.
Really, Kevin Durant? That’s your MVP case? That’s not going to cut it. Not with me, at least.
As far as second place (after LeBron) in the race for the award, there are a number of players the case can be made for, even outside of Durant, from Paul George to LaMarcus Aldridge to Steph Curry. But there’s one more guy who, despite his numbers being slightly down this year, deserves much more recognition as an MVP candidate than he is getting: Tony Parker.
Very quietly, the San Antonio Spurs once again find themselves at the top of Western Conference standings, and nobody deserves more credit for that than one Tony Parker.
At first glance, Parker’s statistics aren’t nearly as impressive as Durant’s, but he’s shooting a better percentage from the field (51 percent to Durant’s 49 percent), he’s making more of his three-pointers (44 percent to 40 percent), and he has better assist totals (6.2 per game to 4.9 per game).
Despite those numbers, I will still concede that — from a statistical standpoint — Durant has had a better season than Parker, who is averaging a hair under 18 points per game. However, I would also argue that Parker has meant a whole lot more to San Antonio’s success than Durant has meant to Oklahoma City’s success, and that’s what I believe should be the ultimate measure for the MVP award. There’s a reason it’s called the Most Valuable Player award, not the Most Statistically Impressive award.
Unlike Kevin Durant, Tony Parker hasn’t played the majority of his season alongside Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook, two guys who have performed at All-Star caliber levels. Instead, Parker is the lone superstar on a team full of quality role players.