3 Reasons Kevin Durant Has Dethroned LeBron James as NBA's Best Player

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IApril 3, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 16:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat guards Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a game at American Airlines Arena on March 16, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James and Kevin Durant are battling it out to be the regular season NBA MVP for the 2011-12 campaign.

While there are strong overtures for Kevin Love and Kobe Bryant to take home the honor, it appears increasingly likely that it will be one of the two small forwards who come away with the award.

Although there was previously a lot of talk about James being the no-brainer choice for the award, Durant's recent surge coupled with Oklahoma City's success has got several rethinking that opinion.

Not only does Durant have a strong chance to supplant James as the MVP this season, but he's looking like the top dog in the NBA right now.

Here are a few reasons as to why that's the case.


Evolution as a Player

This season, Durant is shooting over 50 percent for the first time in his career. While James is in his third straight season of shooting at least 50 percent from the floor, Durant has shown a keen ability to evolve as a player for an improving Oklahoma City team.

According to Hoopdata, Durant has hit 49 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet, a huge improvement over any other season. Similarly, Durant has established a new career high on shots from the three-to-nine foot range on the floor.

Although James (via Hoopdata) has a career-high 76.7 percent conversion rate at the rim, James has taken a step back with his shot from 16-23 feet out.

James might hold the more impressive overall stat line, but the progression Durant has made as a player since coming in as a rookie has his career trajectory pointing off the map.

It's also important to remember that while James is 27 years old, Durant is still just 23.



Leadership can be defined in various ways when it comes to the game of basketball.

We know about James' struggles late in games and some of the questionable comments and title promises he's made since joining the Heat, and that's a stark element about him that makes him very different from Durant.

Durant is constantly humble and is not looking to be in the spotlight, and there is no doubting who is the leader of the young Thunder squad.

James might be the most gifted basketball player on his team, but Dwyane Wade remains the leader.

Does that in and of itself make Durant a better player than James? Absolutely not.

However, the fact that he's grasped the role at such a young age when James struggled to do so in Cleveland at the same juncture in his career is certainly something that would be foolish to overlook.


Team Success

Durant, at 23 years old, is leading his Thunder to one of the most impressive win-loss records in the league during the lockout-shortened season.

Oklahoma City is currently sitting at a sparkling 40-13 record, trailing just Chicago (42-13) for the best mark in the league. On the flip side, Miami is 37-14 despite the glut of talent that resides in South Beach.

While regular season records can't be taken as an indicator of who is the better player on their own, this year certainly supports the notion that there is a changing of the guard happening in the NBA.

Durant will be 24 a few months before James turns 28 years old.

There is no doubt that the future of the league is bright in K.D.'s hands.