2012 NBA MVP: Kevin Durant Is Nice, but He's No LeBron James

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IApril 21, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 8: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder hugs LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat before the game on October 8, 2010 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE  (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant has undoubtedly evolved into a two-dimensional player, still primarily offensive. Unfortunately, his transformation came at a time when LeBron James was sick and tired of not being mentioned as the most valuable player in the league.

James is playing more selfish, and keeping his offensive facilitation at a higher level than most superstars in the league. Who says that LBJ doesn’t deserve the 2012 NBA MVP award?

Durant does have some pretty numbers, as usual. Fans have come to expect him to play at a certain level offensively, even with James Harden—the probable Sixth Man of the Year—and Russell Westbrook—the overly athletic point, who’s not really a point, but plays the point.

It gets confusing to me too sometimes, but Westbrook is almost the equivalence of Durant’s offense, the ying to his yang, the peanut butter to his jelly, the…you get the point. Durant doesn’t shine as well without Westbrook in those hot streaks. LeBron, on the other hand, shines alone.

While Westbrook and Durant have shared the spotlight this season with “The Beard,” LeBron James’ success has somewhat forced the standing members of the big three to the back of the bus. Not to say that their presence means any less, because James still needs both Wade and Bosh to push through the playoffs and possibly win his first NBA championship ring.

However, James is not sharing the center stage with anyone but his regressing hairline. That would have to be the only thing more talked about than LBJ in the Heat camp right now, and no one else’s buzz comes close.

Wade’s injuries have had a lot to do with that. With his frequent benching this season, James has been able to develop a more me-first approach toward the game. Still, what stands out more than Wade’s absence is James’ success in Wade’s absence.

They can function alongside one another. However, James has been forcing the issue without Miami’s former front man, only propelling himself in NBA MVP rankings.

James’ numbers may be gaudy, and so are Durant’s (James: 27.1 PTS, 6.3 AST, 7.9 REBS, 53.1 FG%; Durant: 27.8 PTS, 3.5 AST, 8.0 REBS, 50.1 FG%).

The turn of the tide does not come with those numbers, which are remarkable. It comes when you watch the game and the level of intensity each man plays with each night. It comes when you watch how a game is affected on all cylinders when a single player is taken out of the lineup.

Against the best teams in the league, you know when LeBron is not there, and not just because of his offense. The Heat feel the twinge of his absence defensively, offensively, pace-wise, etc. Coach Spoelstra consistently gives James credit for taking on multiple assignments during a game, and that merit is not something that Coach Spo’ pulled out of a hat.

James affects how Miami operates on both ends of the floor, which is why, on their quest to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, James gets no rest. It’s not like he has not tweaked an ankle during this season or caused irritation to his elbow.

The Miami coaching staff understands how dire his presence is and realize that it is much more instrumental to have him on the court than to have him riding the bench for maintenance.

Kevin Durant constitutes this same treatment with the OKC Thunder, but only because of how strong he is offensively. When he’s not on the floor that is the only aspect of the game that is influenced.

The race seems close because of how great Durant is as a player and an individual. However, it is because of the fact that LeBron is so much better on all ends, that it really isn’t.