Apr 19, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and forward Kevin Durant (35) prepare to return to the game against the Memphis Grizzlies in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook: Who’s The Real MVP?


Reports have surfaced that Kevin Durant will be named the 2013-14 NBA MVP (to nobody’s surprise). He certainly had a remarkable regular season, averaging 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 38.5 minutes per game and deserves the award, but when we look at Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook, who’s the real MVP?

APPLES TO ORANGES?

One of the common critiques that arises when comparing Durant and Westbrook is that we’re not comparing apples to apples. They are certainly different types of players — one a point guard and one a forward — but we should still be able to discern who holds the most value.

When we take a look at their 2013-14 regular season statistics, Durant stands well above Westbrook in almost every single category. Keep in mind that Westbrook missed 36 games due to injury and certainly took some time to get up to full speed. Here’s the comparison from the regular season:

Player Season Age G MP FG% 3P% 2P% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Kevin Durant 2013-14 25 81 38.5 .503 .391 .549 .873 0.7 6.7 7.4 5.5 1.3 0.7 3.5 2.1 32.0
Russell Westbrook 2013-14 25 46 30.7 .437 .318 .482 .826 1.2 4.5 5.7 6.9 1.9 0.2 3.8 2.3 21.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/4/2014.

Not even close, right? Sure, Westbrook averaged more assists and steals, but that’s because he plays the point guard position, which affords the ability to rack up those stats. If we stop here, there’s no question that Durant is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best player and MVP.

PLAYOFFS SHOWING TRUTH OR OUTLIERS?

A statistical outlier or aberration is simply something that falls out of the normal range. Often times, statisticians will eliminate those numbers so that they can get a more reliable result. The Thunder just finished off the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games and we could argue that the series was a bit of a statistical outlier for Durant and Westbrook as far as their shooting is concerned.

Take a look at these numbers as we compare Durant and Westbrook’s series against the Grizzlies:

Totals Shooting Per Game
Player Age G MP TOV PF PTS FG% 3P% FT% MP PTS TRB AST STL BLK
Kevin Durant 25 7 324 28 14 209 .440 .321 .767 46.3 29.9 9.6 3.4 0.9 1.6
Russell Westbrook 25 7 285 34 20 179 .382 .238 .860 40.7 25.6 9.7 8.0 1.6 0.6
Team Totals 7 1780 107 161 715 .435 .324 .845 254.3 102.1 48.1 18.6 6.0 7.6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/4/2014.

Doesn’t this start to paint a different picture? Sure, Durant scored more points, but Westbrook outrebounded him (and led the team in offensive rebounds), obliterated him in assists and beat him in steals. We saw what Durant looks like when he struggles — he consistently fired up poor shots and didn’t have nearly as much impact on his teammates’ success.

On the flip side of things, when Westbrook struggled with his shot (as he did almost all series), he made sure to get the other parts of his game in order. For a point guard to average 9.7 rebounds and lead the team in offensive rebounding is absurd. Regardless of how his shot was doing, Westbrook continually got to the front of the rim (with varied success).

WHO’S MORE VALUABLE?

When each player is playing at their absolute peak, I see Westbrook as the more complete and valuable player. The best part of Durant’s game is his ability to score. Westbrook isn’t as good of a shooter, but he can absolutely score in bunches. Durant is a serviceable rebounder for his size and position, whereas Westbrook is elite. As far as making teammates better, look no further than the 2012-13 Western Conference Semifinals to see how Durant fared without Westbrook on the court.

During that series, Durant put up big numbers — 28.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks — but his team was beaten soundly by the Grizzlies. Durant was able to get his own but couldn’t figure out the defense and wasn’t able to get others involved enough to win the series.

At the end of the day, Durant edges out Westbrook as the more valuable player because of his consistency and durability. The Thunder can count on Durant to be on the court, whereas Westbrook (after being an ironman earlier in his career) has fought injuries over the last two seasons. At their best, Westbrook is the better overall player but taken as a whole, Durant takes it by a slim margin.



Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder Popular

  • Tyrone Bowman

    Interesting take on who OKC’s MVP is. I tend to agree. I do however doubt the Thunder will beat the Clippers if Durant and Westbrook account for more than half of their team total. Kevin and Russell scored 54 of 105 OKC points in Game 1 and fell by 17. Anyone who watched the game knows it should have been at least 20 and LA could have easily gotten 130.