Near the end of last season, Kevin Durant made it clear that he was tired of being second. After all, he had already lost a Finals series in 2012 and had also finished second in MVP voting on 3 occasions. To add insult to injury, on those 4 instances he had finished second fiddle to LeBron James. And while Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are still working their way through the NBA playoffs, he can at least take comfort in him being named this season's Most Valuable Player.
Durant's case for MVP started building up near the middle of the season, as he went on a shooting rampage that he carried all the way to the playoffs. When fellow superstar Russell Westbrook went down with an injury and missed 27 games, Durant took control of the OKC Thunder and guided them to a 59-win season and the second seed in the West.
Many can argue that LeBron is still the best player in the league, but Kevin Durant's numbers and impact were too much to be snubbed once again. Today we take a look at some of the key stats and moments that snowballed to produce the first MVP in the Sonics/Thunder franchise's history.
Durant won his fourth scoring title in his last 5 years, and by winning the MVP he just became the first player to take home both distinctions since Allen Iverson did it in 2001. While Durant had always been able to score in bunches, during this campaign he was able to elevate his scoring prowess and even amass the third-longest streak of games scoring at least 25 points, with 41 such games to end the season.
All in all, Durant led the NBA in minutes played, which helped him greatly to keep scoring. He failed to score at least 20 points on only 4 games during the year, and in contrast he had 14 games scoring 40+, including two in which he surpassed the 50-point mark (including a career-high 54 on January 17th).
Durant also led the league in field goals made and attempts, free throws, and points per game. His shooting splits were painfully close to the 50/40/90 split (fields goals/three-pointers/free throws), as he finished with a .503/.391/.873 that was a tad short of last year's spectacular .510/.416/.905; however, with Durant having a greater workload, it was to be expected.
While the traditional numbers remained consistent with the rest of Durant's 7-year career, the advanced analysis is where he really came to shine and be a step above LeBron.
He was the league leader in Usage, Win Shares, Offensive Win Shares, and PER. In fact, Durant's 29.8 PER for the season is now ranked as the 20th-best in NBA history, cementing this MVP campaign as one of the best and most deserved.
Durant's added responsibilities led him to produce more than he ever had in all aspects of the game, and he delivered handsomely.
It is hard to fathom tha Kevin Durant is just 25 years old, so his year-to-year battle with LeBron still has a lot of championships and MVP's to decide. His quest towards a championship is alive as long as Oklahoma surrounds him with enough talent to compete, and is certainly the next goal in Durant's mindset.
In many statistical areas, he is already among the best 15 or 20 players in league history, as his unprecedented knack for scoring makes him impossible to guard at times. He was tired of finishing second and now has the hardware to prove he can be number 1, but Kevin Durant's NBA tale is far, far from being close to the end.