Kevin Durant says LeBron James should win MVP


Somehow I can see people trying to spin this into another sign that Kevin Durant walks on water and LeBron James is a horrible person, but here it goes.

The MVP race is down to James and Durant — and Durant think LeBron should win it, he told the Oklahoman.

“He deserves all the love (for MVP),” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “He’s playing phenomenal basketball. I’m just trying to get better every single game and trying to help my team as much as I can. I’m just blessed to be in that conversation.”

Both Durant and LeBron have had fantastic seasons on the offensive end. LeBron is scoring 26.9 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting, with 8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Durant is at 27.8 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting with 7.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. To me the difference is that LeBron contributes more on the defensive end for his team.

If you want a candidate outside those two, Tony Parker and Chris Paul should have their names in the conversation. It’s not happening but they should.

As for my first paragraph comment, I’ll just say this — after the Thunder lost to the Clippers last week the team flew to Arizona and had the next day off. Durant wanted to blow off steam and tweeted a photo and comment about being at a casino there at five in the morning. The general reaction? No biggie, he’s just blowing off steam. Which is true and fine. But if that had been LeBron in the exact same situation…

Former MVPs think Durant edges out LeBron this year

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat

It’s going to come down to LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant.

That is your MVP race and it is going to be close. Chris Tomasson at Fox Sports Florida decided to ask 11 former MVPs who would get their vote. Fun idea.

Durant won five votes to four (with two abstentions).

“I think that this year’s MVP award will end up in the hands of Kevin Durant,’’ Abdul-Jabbar said of the Oklahoma City forward. “Durant is my choice as front-runner due to the success of his team. Yes, he is on a young and talented team, but his presence has been the catalyst for their recent dominance.’’

For a dissenting opinion…

“There’s no question LeBron deserves the MVP, with his performance playing a complete game and for a successful team,’’ said Hakeem Olajuwon, the 1994 winner for Houston. “When you look at his contribution to his team and their record, there’s no question he deserves it.’’

I personally lean toward LeBron, but I think the final voting will go a lot like this poll — close but with a slight edge to Durant. While LeBron has had the better statistical season, Durant has a better narrative and his team and person are just better liked in general.

It is close. LeBron is scoring 26.9 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting, with 8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He has a league best PER of 30.5 and he contributes more on defense than does Durant. Not that Durant is putting up shabby numbers — 27.8 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting with 7.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and a PER of 26.7.

I don’t think Durant is a bad choice, I just think LeBron has had the better season and done more for his team at both ends of the floor. But when you ask people who write stories for a living to vote, the guy with the better narrative wins whether or not he is the better statistical choice. Ask Derrick Rose.

Derrick Rose says he doesn’t know anything about being MVP. Yet.

Derrick Rose, Charlie Villanueva

Derrick Rose will be announced as the NBA’s MVP in the coming weeks. We all know it.

But it’s not official yet. So it was a bit of a shock when Bulls guard C.J. Watson tweeted Friday:

Congrats to drose on winning the MVP he’s played unbelievable this season!!! now just need tibs to win coach of the yr

Rose said after the game he has been told nothing official yet by the league. But maybe Watson knows something Rose doesn’t.

“C.J. knows a lot of people around here, a lot of famous people. A lot of famous people,” Rose said. “So watch that guy.”

LeBron James says Derrick Rose is MVP

derrick Rose bulls

I’m not sure there’s really an MVP debate, at least one where the outcome is in doubt.

Derrick Rose is going to win it. Like it or not. Complain it’s about the narrative and not the play, or counter Rose is clearly the man leading the best team in the game, make no mistake about the ultimate outcome. Rose is the MVP.

And two-time defending MVP LeBron James is good with that.

James told reporters before Wednesday night’s game that Rose is the MVP, reports Bill Reiter at Fox Sports (via twitter, H/T to CBSSports Eye on Basketball).

“I think [it’s] Derrick Rose,” James said before the Heat’s game Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards. “What he’s done for that team, with all the injuries they have and them being first in the Eastern Conference — they’re playing some really good basketball.”

Rose has stepped up his game and is the leader of the team that will finish the regular season on top of the East. The Bulls and Rose have exceeded expectations, and that narrative often wins the MVP award. Not everyone is on board (myself included). Rather than rehash the argument, just read this.

But it doesn’t matter. Rose will win. And picking up LeBron’s endorsement makes it that much more certain.

Here is the video of LeBron’s comments, courtesy CSN Chicago.

Sorry, New York, but Stoudemire is no MVP. Rose either.

Amare Stoudemire

We all want to be smart, clever, cutting edge. Nobody wants to give the tired, same old answer. Even if it’s the right one.

Ask “experts” and fans who the best player in the NBA is and they’ll talk about how Player X is better than LeBron James. Kobe has more rings and finishes better, Durant has taken his scoring mantle, etc. Sorry, but the answer is LBJ. Has been for a few seasons now. Nobody is forcing you to like LeBron, but respect the game.

The same theory holds with the MVP discussion. We don’t want to state the obvious few guys because they don’t show us as forward thinking. We seem staid and boring saying LeBron should have a third straight MVP.

So we fall in love with the new guy and their fresh narrative. We sell their story. Amar’e Stoudemire has brought the Knicks back to relevance, carrying all of Manhattan on his broad shoulders, so he should be MVP. Derrick Rose has made this Bulls team the best since you know who, so he is in the MVP discussion.

Sorry, no.

Both Rose and Stoudemire are having genuinely fantastic seasons, they deserve truckloads of praise. Neither should have to buy a dinner in their respective cities. But MVP is another discussion entirely. Neither of them should be in that discussion once it gets serious.

Here’s the thing about Stoudemire — he’s the same player now he was in Phoenix. The numbers are close. Go ahead and point out he is scoring three more points per game than he was in Phoenix and I’ll note his shooting percentage — traditional and true shooting percentage — is down. Yes, he’s scoring three more points per game but he’s taking four more shots to do it.

Spare me the “defenses are focusing on him now” bit — if you think that defenses didn’t plan for him in Phoenix, you didn’t watch any of their games.

Which is kind of the point — Stoudemire was great in Phoenix but never got credit because people weren’t watching and too many of those that were became captivated by Steve Nash. Again, not to bash Nash, but he drew some of the attention that rightfully belonged to Stoudemire. Now, Stoudemire is getting that adulation on the big stage.

He has lifted the Knicks up to… average. The Knicks are not a good team folks, they’re just no longer craptastic. Credit Stoudemire for that — but that is very different than the MVP discussion. And you’d be shortchanging Raymond Felton. The truth of the campaign is that Stoudemire is New York’s favorite son and so all these Knick fans — including my bosses, so enjoy this column because I am biting the hand that feeds me — think he is now deserving of the league’s highest honors. No. He didn’t change, the Knicks changed a little with him and Felton. Stoudemire is not even having his best season (07-08).

As for Rose, you can make a better case for him — he is having his best season (of three, but still) and the Bulls are on the bubble of contender in the East. So he passes those criteria.

But Rose is also doing that in part because the team around him is better. The real MVP of the Bulls is Tom Thibodeau and his ability to coach defense. Then there are the  comparisons: Rose is undoubtedly good, but he is not as efficient a player other elite team leaders such as LeBron or Dwyane Wade. Chris Paul has a true shooting percentage of 60.4, LeBron is 57.7, Rose is closer to the league average at 53.8.  He’s about the same in terms of usage as Kevin Durant but not nearly as efficient a scorer. Rohan broke it all down well right here, I will not rehash it.

As Tom Ziller points out, the Durant of last season is a good comparison for Rose now because the casual basketball fan base is falling in love with his game for the first time, hence the glowing stories like Rick Riley’s on espn.com. The “he’s a good person, we love his game” meme. Which all may be true, but that is different than an MVP discussion. For me MVP should be about efficiently leading your team to a higher place than they could go without you. Rose and Stoudemire both do that to a degree, but others do it better.

The problem is the NBA issues no guidelines on how to define MVP. Best player in the league? Best player on the best team? Guy who meant the most to his team? Best player to make a rap video cameo? You can define it however you wish.

In the absence of direction, many NBA writers are drawn to the guys with narratives. Writers like stories. We do. Here’s the thing: We’re like the rest of you — we want our job to be easier. Guys who come with their own narratives attached make our jobs easier. So many in the media root for those storylines. Guy changes the fortunes of New York/Chicago makes a great story.

It does not make an MVP.

To be fair, here are the three guys at the top of my list right now. Feel free to tell me how inadequate they are:

Chris Paul. The Hornets stunk last year and are good this year — 30-16 and currently riding the longest winning streak in the league. What’s the difference? CP3 is healthy. (And Monty Williams deserves a nod here in part). Paul is the best point guard in the game — you may be wrong, Barkley — and he somehow gets undervalued. He can shoot or dish like Nash. He carries this offense. He has lifted his team farther than any other player this season and done it efficiently.

LeBron James. Best player in the Association on one of its elite teams. Sure, he’s the same guy as the last two seasons, but that guy was MVP.

Dirk Nowitzki. If you’re one of those who say you can tell how good a player is by his absence from his team, then Nowitzki is your guy. Remember that Dallas was 24-5 (largely against a tough schedule of above .500 teams) while Nowitzki was shooting 55 percent (a career best) before his injury. He left and the team collapsed. What hurts his candidacy is what has happened since his return, which is unimpressive.