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When I ranked the contenders for the 2012 championship, I argued that the Thunder were the ideal team for the lockout shortened season. They have youth, continuity, and experience. All signs point to a fantastic season that could earn Kevin Durant the MVP.
Durant already has two scoring titles to his name. He is as popular as anyone in the league. Basketball has flourished in Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant is largely responsible.
The biggest question facing the Thunder and Durant is Russell Westbrook's continuing evolution as a point guard. He was criticized in the playoffs last year for holding the ball too long and taking too many possessions away from Oklahoma City's leader.
I expect Westbrook to improve his decision making and embrace his role as the second option on offense. While James Harden and Serge Ibaka will continue to get better on offense (and thus demand more touches), I see this as an advantage for Durant's MVP campaign. With more players for opposing defenses to worry about, Durant should have more opportunities to score against a single defender. He might take a couple less shots per game, but his percentages should improve.
The Thunder could very easily have the best regular-season record this year. Derrick Rose can attest to how much voters value someone who is the best player on the best team.
What he has going for him:
he is the leader of a team built for the lockout shortened season; a great chance to three-peat as scoring champ; he is coming off a extremely successful and well publicized off season (who can forget Rucker Park? I know these things aren't supposed to effect NBA awards, but it never hurts to stay on voters' minds year round).
What he has going against him:
Westbrook might develop into a superstar rather than a sidekick (causing the alpha dog clash some members of the media foresee); he will most likely get a couple less shots per game; there's no room for him to lead the Thunder to huge improvement, at least not in the regular season.