Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant has established himself as the front-runner to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, but Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has an interesting—if not biased—view of who should finish second in voting behind him.
“I think second because I’m coaching him,” Rivers said of the big man’s MVP status, per ESPN’s Arash Markazi. “I think Durant has had the best year. I still think LeBron [James] is still the best player in the NBA but I think Durant has had an MVP year. I don’t know who has had a better year. And I honestly think Blake would be right behind him.”
The 25-year-old out of Oklahoma is averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game to accompany 9.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He’s shooting 52.8 percent from the field—the lowest mark since his rookie year—but he’s expanded his offensive repertoire to include more mid-range attempts.
During an 18-game stretch from Jan. 4 through Feb. 7—when CP3 was sidelined with a separated shoulder—Griffin led L.A. to a 12-6 record. He averaged 27.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per contest during that span, according to NBA.com.
Although most NBA fans would agree that Durant and James should be voted one and two in some order, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks agreed that Griffin is part of the MVP conversation.
“Blake is definitely in there,” Brooks said, per Markazi. “When Chris Paul went out, you saw that he took his game to another level. You also saw his leadership. It’s one thing to put numbers up but you have to put numbers up by leading and helping your team win, and that’s what he did.”
Ultimately, nobody will remember the man who finishes second in MVP voting. It’s all about who wins the hardware. Griffin shouldn’t be bothered, however, because he’s kept his focus on winning a championship.
After the Clippers clinched the Pacific Division title earlier this month, Griffin said, “It’s an accomplishment and something to be proud of but by no means is that what we’re aiming for. We have much bigger goals,” per Markazi.
The talented interior force has certainly posted an MVP-caliber season, but the Clippers’ focus needs to be on a deep playoff run. Surprisingly, they haven’t won a single postseason game past the first round since Paul’s arrival.
Don’t be surprised if Griffin’s maturation as a player changes that narrative in 2014.