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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The LeBron James-Kevin Durant Narrative

The narrative during the NBA All-Star Weekend centered around Kevin Durant all of a sudden becoming the best player in the NBA. Statistically, Durant has been a beast, and he has outclassed Lebron James on paper. However, the MVP award and NBA championships are not handed out based off of production in one day fantasy sports leagues. Instead, Durant is going to have to show in the second half of the regular season that he can not only lead a team to the NBA finals but also win it.

With back-to-back championships already under his belt, Lebron James has taken it slightly easy in the regular season so far this year. His numbers in one day fantasy sports are down, but that is mostly because his minutes are down. The Miami Heat have played a lot of games in the last few years, and James also participated in the Olympics in 2012. Even though he seems to be indestructible, Miami is making sure that he is well rested so that he can have success when it matters most.

For Durant, he has been dealt a tough hand so far this season. Not only is he in the deeper Western Conference, but he has had to play most of the season without point guard Russell Westbrook. Those two factors have made him focus more on putting up big numbers so that his team can have success. It is certainly not a given that they can just coast to the playoffs and have home court advantage. That is why Durant is playing and scoring more when compared to James.

When it comes to the NBA, it takes time to get the title as the best player in the league. It took Lebron James a few years before he was pretty much unanimously considered better than Kobe Bryant. There is a chance that Kevin Durant never gets to that point when compared to James. There are certainly people who feel like he is better, but it is hard to compare when both players are trying to accomplish different things this regular season.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:03 PM

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2 Comments:

At Wednesday, February 19, 2014 5:27:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Durant has certainly been the best player in the league so far, and 2/3 of the season is done. Even with all the love james gets, it should be super hard for james to get mvp this year. Durant's been a better scorer than james for several years now, and that trend still continues. The fact that Durant can fit a different role as scorer/playmaker now, shows how versatile he is, as basically a 7 footer. Durant's team is outperforming every other team while Westbrook is out.


As you've mentioned many times before, MVPs are regular season only, not playoffs. So, why does it matter if Durant carries his team to the nba finals or not? Playoffs don't count towards your MVP. I don't understand this contradiction, especially since Durant has already been to the finals. Let's not forget how lucky james was to win even 1 ring. The spurs absolutely blew it last year, and the pacers had them on the ropes as well. If the heat were in the west these past 3 years, they might not even make it to 1 finals. There's lots of variables. It's often who you play and when you play them. Playoffs much like tennis tourneys. You might be able to beat 1 of the top 3 guys, but can you beat all 3 of the top 3 guys? It's about your road through the tourney, like march madness, etc.

Since the 2010-2011 season(playoffs included), Durant has played 327 games, while James has played 335 games. Hardly a difference. Durant played in the olympics. Both of them have played a lot of games, so tiredness is not an excuse you can make for one of them and not the other.

 
At Wednesday, February 19, 2014 5:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Durant is a great, MVP-level player but at least part of the reason that he almost certainly will win the 2014 regular season MVP is that voters get tired of voting for the same guy; that is why Barkley and Malone won MVPs when MJ still was clearly the best player in the league.

I don't believe in luck as a major factor in a game of skill; you could nitpick Russell's titles and say that he was "lucky" in certain years but the bottom line is he won 11 in 13 years and now James has won two in a row.

I am not making an "excuse" for any player. The reality is that James seemed to be pacing himself early this season and now he is turning it up. Maybe that will be held against him in MVP voting, maybe that should be held against him, but Durant has not been in a position to pace himself sans Westbrook--and thus Durant might wear down if Westbrook does not return soon (and at a high level).

I am still not convinced that Durant is a better all-around player than James and I think that the MVP should go to the best all-around player (unless there is a big man whose singular dominance enables him to have more impact than the best all-around player).

 

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