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Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
One can try to talk people into Rajon Rondo or Kevin Love until they are blue in the face, but the NBA Most Valuable Player award is still a two-man race.
For me, the MVP has always hinged on the strict definition of valuable. So if you were to remove LeBron James from Miami, would they still be a playoff team? I think they would be, and a middle seed in the Eastern Conference at that.
However, removing Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City would be far more devastating. Due in part to the difficult conference, I am not sure the Thunder still make it into the postseason out west.
With the dealing of James Harden, the Thunder took a hit in the short term, without a doubt. It should open the door for the slight uptick in Durant's production that would necessitate this award.
While I don't fully buy into the theory that voters don't want to give it to the same guy over and over again, there is some truth to it. It is an undeniable human nature to do this, even subconsciously. James won seemingly every individual award possible this past year, filling his closet with NBA Championship, regular season and Finals MVP awards...and a gold medal.
Durant will lead the league in scoring for a fourth-straight season, and he will do so by a larger margin than in the past. He will also be required to improve in other areas with Harden gone, allowing him to pad numbers outside points per game.
All of these minor improvements will be enough for voters to give into their subconscious and award the trophy to Kevin Durant.