He was named Rookie of the Year that season. He has been named to the All-NBA team the last four seasons. He has won the NBA scoring title in three of the past four seasons. He has never won, however, the Most Valuable Player award.
That could all change this year. There is no doubt he is the MVP of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he may be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
It has become even more evident in the absence of Russell Westbrook. Durant has taken his game to a whole new level without his All-Star point guard. Westbrook has been out since Dec. 27, missing the team’s last 15 games after undergoing knee surgery.
Since then, the former Texas Longhorn has scored less than 30 points just twice. He has scored 46 or more points in four games, including a 54-point outburst against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 17. He recorded three straight double-doubles after Westbrook’s last appearance.
He has led them to a 10-5 record without Westbrook, and the team is currently riding a five-game winning streak.
This is something that Durant has been doing all season. The 25-year-old currently leads the NBA in points per game (31.0), free-throws made (387) and free-throw attempts (439). He has made 101 more attempts than James Harden, who is second on the list (286).
He has led the NBA in made free throws four years running and is on his way to a fifth straight year. He is also on pace to lead the league in points for a fifth consecutive season.
Durant is averaging 5.1 assists per game, which is the third most among small forwards. Although the season just passed the midway point, that is the best of his career. He is currently on pace for 411 assists, 37 more than his career high set last season.
Turnovers have been an issue for the former AP Player of the Year. He is averaging 3.3 turnovers per game, and Durant has the most total giveaways (144) among small forwards, with LeBron James the only one close behind (142).
That isn’t something that has derailed Durant, though. He is the main reason his Thunder are 33-10 and sitting atop the Western Conference. Only the Indiana Pacers have a better record (33-8) than Oklahoma City.
There are still 39 games to be played until the playoffs. Durant has shown he is capable of leading this team without Westbrook on the floor. He led the Thunder to victories over the Portland Trail Blazers (No. 3 in West) and the San Antonio Spurs (No. 2 in West) the last two games.
Whether or not he can keep this pace up is still to be determined. Durant’s performance will dictate the outcome of their season, as well as the playoffs. This is his team with or without Westbrook.
And it may be his MVP to lose.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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