Why Kevin Durant Will Win MVP

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors are going to hold another NBA MVP ceremony, this time for Kevin Durant.

All eyes are on Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. Typing “Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors” still doesn’t feel right, more than three months after Durant joined the 73-win Warriors.

Some have wondered how well the Warriors can mesh with Durant, as there’s only one ball and all of their All-Stars will have to sacrifice numbers for the greater good.

Not only will they mesh well their new addition, he should be the favorite to win MVP.

The logic behind Durant currently being tied for being the fourth-most likely player to bring home the MVP trophy makes sense. Russell Westbrook puts up video game stats, Stephen Curry is the reigning back-to-back MVP, LeBron James is one of the best players ever.

It’s hard to say any of those guys aren’t capable of being named MVP, as Curry and James have six of the last eight MVPs. Westbrook averaging a triple-double this season isn’t beyond reason.

However, it’s hard to imagine the Thunder being good enough to warrant having an MVP. James will be 32 by the halfway point of the season and will likely require rest after an absurd sixth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. Curry will have the ball in his hands less with Durant and the gameplan is to give him less shots.

The Warriors will have to sacrifice numbers, that much is true. Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green combined for 94.4 points per game last season. With them all on the floor at the same time, it’s hard to imagine that number staying around that range.

That hurts Durant’s chances at winning a fifth scoring title, but isn’t the end of his MVP hopes.

Durant’s one of the most complete, unstoppable offensive players in NBA history. He’s virtually unguardable due to his size, athleticism, ability to put the ball on the floor, and his deadly jump shot.  He’s going to get his shots and he’s going to make them at a high rate.

After years of playing in isolation-heavy offenses on a team that struggles to space the floor, Durant will play with some of the best shooters in NBA history in an offense that runs on ball-movement and taking advantage of mismatches.

Durant has already cemented himself as an all-time scorer, which should make this statement terrifying for the rest of the league: Durant has won scoring titles playing offense with a high degree of difficulty. This season, the level of difficulty will be easy.

Opponents won’t be able to double-team him. Head coach Steve Kerr is a genius at creating favorable mismatches and Durant is a walking mismatch. Think of how Curry always ends up in isolation against big men, or how Shaun Livingston ends up on the block posting up a 6’1 backup point guard. Durant dominates in the post (1.23 points per possession, best in the NBA with at least 20 post up possessions).

Durant can’t be guarded by plodding big men. Give him space and you might as well put three points on the board. Try to defend him straight up and he’ll blow by you quick, as Chris Andersen found out the hard way.

None of this is brand new. It doesn’t take a genius or much analysis to argue that Durant is a great scorer. That’s not the point. The point is that Durant will be an efficiency monster this season.

He’ll also be allowed to let his all-around game on full display, something that has rarely been unlocked.

Durant’s defense against the Warriors was incredible to see. With his length and athleticism, Durant has as much defensive potential as nearly anyone in the league. The Warriors will rely on Durant’s ability to defend multiple positions and protect the rim more than he was ever asked to do in Oklahoma City.

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His versatility will finally be unleashed as a small-ball power forward or even center at times. With Oklahoma City, Durant was rarely able to play power forward since OKC’s frontcourt has been crowded with Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, and Enes Kanter.

Last season Durant played a career-high 26 percent of his minutes at power forward, per Basketball-Reference. For comparison, the player Durant is replacing, Harrison Barnes, played 55 percent of his minutes at power forward.

NBA fans and media are smarter than ever, so it’s an outdated idea that Durant’s defense and versatility will go unnoticed or unrewarded.

Durant’s in perfect position to showcase his complete game and play to his full potential with the Warriors. In addition, Durant is on a one-year deal with a player option for next season. The Warriors would be wise to make sure Durant is happy with his role.

The Warriors are a virtual lock to win at least 65 games, something that can’t be said for any other team.

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It’s impossible to project Durant’s numbers but it’s hard to imagine him scoring less than 27 a game while getting at least eight rebounds and five assists. With less double-teams and being put in better situations, it’s extremely likely Durant challenges for another 50/40/90 season.

If he can go for those numbers while playing above-average defense on a 65+ win team, it’s hard to justify him not being named MVP.