The Golden State Warriors may be villains, but Kevin Durant is still looking like he’s the real MVP in his first season with the Warriors.
The Most Valuable Player award typically goes to the best player on one of the best teams in the NBA. There’s been a lot of opposition to that lately–more and more people seem to believe it should go to the best player in general, not the most valuable or necessarily one on a great team.
That’s a tricky distinction and a trickier argument, and not one that’s going to be tackled here. Mostly because it doesn’t have to be.
The current award goes to the most valuable player, and that is Kevin Durant. The proposed new award would go to the best player, which is still Kevin Durant.
The Golden State Warriors aren’t currently the NBA’s best team according to record, but they certainly have the upside to be the best squad in the Association.
They’ve been this good without Kevin Durant previously, but Golden State traded two starters and several bench pieces away for the ability to sign KD for a reason. And a damn good one, judging from the statistics he’s posting this season.
Durant is averaging 26.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game this season. Those numbers are extraordinary by themselves, but the ruthless efficiency that has come with the scoring and everything else is even more incredible.
Through his first 14 games as a Warrior, Durant is making 56.3 percent of his field goals, 42.0 percent of his threes and 84.2 percent of his free throws. His true shooting percentage is an absolutely ridiculous 67.4.
No player in NBA history has scored that much, that efficiently. Obviously it’s very early in the season, but Durant is on pace for a historic season.
Just five players in league history have managed to score 20 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 65 before: Stephen Curry, Charles Barkley, Amar’e Stoudemire, Adrian Dantley and Kevin McHale.
Durant is sporting the lowest usage percentage he ever has in his career, but along with that sacrifice is coming his best offensive season ever. The Warriors have built their offense around KD, but they’re not running everything through him.
The balance has been impeccable thus far. Running too much through Durant would rob Golden State of what made them so effective, the idea that any of their multiple shooters can get a shot up at any time.
But treating him like just another shooter would be just as if not more stupid. The Warriors braintrust realizes that Durant is probably the most potent offensive weapon in the NBA.
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He’s one of very few players that can shoot on or at least near Curry’s level, and he’s also nearly 7 feet tall.
Durant scored 1.2 more points per 36 in his last MVP season than he has in this one, but his true shooting percentage, offensive rating and player efficiency rating have never been higher than they are in his first year with the Dubs.
Right now Curry is averaging more shots per game than Durant, and that may or may not change. With the scoring Durant is managing to do with the touches he is getting, it’s doubtful he much cares about getting the most shots, as long as the Warriors keep on winning.
Durant is the best Warrior, and he looks like the best player in the NBA early on. A lot can change, but he could look even better down the road as Golden State starts to gel and come together as a team, especially on the defensive end.
This is the perfect situation for a scorer like Durant to thrive in, and thrive he has.
Even if Russell Westbrook and James Harden continue to put up ridiculous statistics night after night, their former teammate from their Oklahoma City Thunder days is truly the best, and most valuable, player the NBA has to offer.