By now it's abundantly clear that Kevin Durant is becoming the new face of the NBA. With his humble, likable demeanor, relentless work ethic and of course his frequent and unstoppable scoring explosions, the 6'9" small forward from Oklahoma City has made the transition from promising young player to full blown star.
Durant was rewarded for another stellar season by being selected to his third consecutive All-Star game and second as a starter. Averaging 27.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 51.2 percent from the field, Durant is certainly having an All-Star caliber year, and in the minds of many, is an MVP frontrunner.
While his stats certainly warrant consideration, it does seem the NBA is making a conscious effort to turn Durant into the league's most popular player after LeBron James soured his reputation to the public with "The Decision" and his move to Miami. Whether through the new league advertisements featuring Durant or the regularity of Thunder games on national television it is difficult to avoid Durant as a basketball fan.
Much like how the focus of last year's Los Angeles All-Star game was Kobe Bryant and his quest for a fourth All-Star MVP award, this season's festivities will be divided between Dwight Howard's trade controversy in Orlando and the stellar play of Durant.
In addition to appearing in the main game, Durant was recently named a contestant in the Three-Point Shootout due to Joe Johnson's injury, further proof of his integral role in the event and his overall popularity. Instead of taking a three-point specialist like a Mike Miller or Ray Allen the league opted for Durant to anchor the event. KD certainly has a puncher's chance at winning the shootout too, given his ability to heat up behind the arc and sink shots in spades.
Durant has certainly performed well in his previous All-Star experiences, notching 15 points in only 20 minutes of action in 2010 and a phenomenal 34 points during last year's game that was overshadowed by the brilliance of Bryant and James. However, unlike those games, this year all eyes will likely be on him.
Though there is not a ton of play calling involved in the All-Star game and it is more free form, having his Thunder coach Scott Brooks leading the Western Conference team will only help Durant. When Brooks does draw up a play it will likely be for KD, due to their familiarity, as opposed to another player he barely knows.
His point guard, Russell Westbrook, will also be appearing in the game off the bench and if the game gets close, Brooks will likely confide in the guys he is most comfortable with, Durant and Westbrook obviously including. Of course, he'll also be sharing the court with playmaking geniuses Chris Paul and Steve Nash, which shouldn't hurt his numbers.
Durant's style of play is conducive to an MVP award. With his arsenal of turnaround jumpers, drives to the basket, set shots and everything in between, Durant is impossible to slowdown in a regular NBA game, let alone one where everyone playing puts in a minimal defensive effort.
If the Western Conference wins and Durant can top the 30 point mark again while snagging around seven rebounds and maybe make a couple flashy passes, it'll be tough to argue against giving KD his first of what will likely be many All-Star MVP awards.