The Oklahoma City Thunder made headlines this offseason by trading away the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets. There were many questions surrounding the team heading into the season, as many worried that the major trade would throw off team chemistry and hurt the Thunder's chances of winning a championship this year.
However, the Oklahoma City Thunder are off to a great start with an NBA-best 24-7 record, which can be greatly attributed to the career year that Kevin Durant has put together so far. Not only is Durant carrying his team to the top spot in the Western Conference standings, but he is quickly displaying why he is likely to earn his first MVP award of his career.
Durant has always been known for his great scoring ability, so it is no surprise that he is third in the league in scoring with an average of 28.4 points per game. He is having his second-best season in points scored per game so far this year, but is scoring on a career-high 51.7 percent of shots he puts up.
He is bolstering this field-goal percentage by shooting a career high 42.4 percent from behind the three-point line. He is only behind Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony by 0.8 and 1.9 points, respectively, in scoring this season, but is taking over two less shots per game than both players.
In addition, he is outscoring reigning MVP LeBron James by 1.9 points while taking almost one shot less per game than James.
Durant's point scoring is greatly boosted by his ability to get to the line nine times a game and convert on 90.3 percent of these free-throw attempts. His efficiency at the line is aiding greatly in closing out games for Oklahoma City, as NBA.com reports that Durant essentially maintains his free-throw percentage in clutch situations.
Who will win MVP?
One area that Durant has continued to work on is his ability to get other players involved in the offensive game, which he has shown great improvement in so far this year. He is registering 4.1 assists per game this season and is using his ability to draw defenders in order to create opportunities for his teammates to take more efficient shots.
There is no doubt that he is one of the best offensive players in the game, but Durant is also having one of the best defensive seasons of his career.
He is recording a solid 7.9 rebounds to go along with career bests of 1.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. Durant's dedication to improving on the defensive end of the court has led to a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 102 as reported by Basketball-Reference.com, a number which is even better than LeBron James' current 103 rating this season.
Kevin Durant is an extremely talented player who consistently takes control of games and leads the Oklahoma City Thunder to victory. He has grown into an excellent leader for the team and is one of the most reliable players in the league at making the shots that count in the clutch.
He is also having a better season than he had last year and is continuing to show great improvement in the areas of his game that had shown some deficiencies over the last few season.
Most importantly, Durant is not only carrying the team with his offensive performances, but he is helping his teammates to play to their true potential. If he continues to lead his team to success with similar performances over the remainder of the season, it is likely that Durant will beat out LeBron James and claim the first MVP award of his young career.