With the completion of the NBA season on Wednesday, the race for MVP runner-up is now officially in the books.
The race for actual MVP, of course, has essentially been locked up for quite some time now, with Kevin Durant serving as the transcendent, unstoppable force for the 59-23 Oklahoma City Thunder.
Still, while many believe the 25-year-old to be the obvious choice for his first career MVP award, that doesn't mean it won't be interesting to see who steals votes and who cracks some of the ballots.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about the coveted award.
|Kevin Durant (Predicted Winner)||Oklahoma City Thunder||32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG|
|LeBron James||Miami Heat||27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG|
|Blake Griffin||Los Angeles Clippers||24.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.9 APG|
|Chris Paul||Los Angeles Clippers||19.1 PPG, 10.7 APG, 2.5 SPG|
|Paul George||Indiana Pacers||21.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG|
|Joakim Noah||Chicago Bulls||12.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 5.4 APG|
|Al Jefferson||Charlotte Bobcats||21.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.1 BPG|
|Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||24.0 PPG, 8.5 APG, 1.6 SPG|
|Goran Dragic||Phoenix Suns||20.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 1.4 SPG|
When you have LeBron James, who has won the last two and four of the last five MVP awards, giving his stamp of approval, it's difficult to make an argument for anyone else. Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick passed along the King's quote:
LeBron on Durant: "I would say he's the most consistent player as far as MVP this year."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 9, 2014
Shooting a ridiculously efficient 50.3 percent from the field, Durant led the league with 32.0 points per contest to go with 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals in the best all-around season of his career.
If you're more into the advanced stats, the Thunder star, per Basketball-Reference.com, leads the NBA in PER (29.9), win shares (19.0) and win shares per 48 minutes (.296).
With or without explosive point guard Russell Westbrook, who has missed nearly half the season due to injury, Durant has proven unstoppable. Magic Johnson, who knows a thing or two about winning MVP awards, put it simply back in late March:
Kevin Durant scoring 51 points tonight sealed the deal on the NBA MVP race.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 22, 2014
None of this is meant as a slight to James, who is enjoying his most efficient offensive season (56.7 percent from the field, 64.9 true-shooting percentage) en route to 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.
NBA.com's Couper Moorhead put some absurd numbers behind James' campaign:
LeBron will also set single-season high for eFG%, at .610, among players with higher than 25 percent usage. Tops Barkley and Shaq's best.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) April 16, 2014
LeBron will finish the season having shot 78.3 percent at the rim on 581 shots. Durant around 77.5 percent on 400 attempts. Both ridiculous.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) April 16, 2014
It's a truly special one-two punch we have at the top of the league right now, and this year's campaign was the newest and best example of that.
But while the race may be a little top-heavy, there certainly wasn't a shortage of worthy candidates, either.
The Los Angeles Clippers finished with the season with the third-best record in the league not only because of the addition of Doc Rivers as head coach but also because of the play of both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Typically regarded as a high-flying human highlight, Griffin improved every facet of his game in 2013-14, averaging 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Paul, meanwhile, missed some time but once again led the league in assists (10.7) and steals (2.5) per contest.
Paul George seemed to be right in the thick of the race before a March and April collapse for the Indiana Pacers, but he deserves credit for his overall body of work. As he took a tumble, though, a couple of versatile big men in the East continued to gain momentum.
Joakim Noah doesn't score like an MVP candidate (12.6 points per game), but he has carried the Bulls on both ends of the court (11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks) without Derrick Rose.
Then you have Al Jefferson, who doesn't get a ton of attention but has been at the forefront of Charlotte's turnaround, averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in his first season with the Bobcats.
Back in the West, it would be a mistake to forget about Stephen Curry and Goran Dragic.
Assuming Durant and LeBron are No. 1 and No. 2, who will be No. 3 in MVP voting?
Curry continued to thrill audiences as the best long-distance shooter this league has seen in a long time (24.0 points per game, 3.3 threes made per contest), but he also improved immensely as a distributor, finishing with 8.5 dimes a game.
Finally, Dragic quietly tallied 20.3 points and 5.9 assists per contest, keeping the Phoenix Suns afloat in the ultra-competitive West with a less-than-spectacular supporting cast and Eric Bledsoe sidelined for a large portion of the season.
So, yes, Durant is the clear front-runner for MVP. But the amount of MVP-caliber seasons is a good indicator that the NBA is in a very good place right now.
And as for the race for Finals MVP? Well, that's clearly going to be as scintillating as ever.