Just as the regular season is heading towards its climax, the competition for the MVP award is becoming a real battle between the two best players in the league, four-time winner LeBron James and the three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant.
Many felt that KD was pulling away from LeBron, with him leading the scoring charts and leading Oklahoma City Thunder to the top spot in the West even with Russell Westbrook injured. However, out of the blue, back came LeBron on Monday when he scored a career-high 61 against the Bobcats whilst also making at least two-thirds of his shots.
Then just when you think that LBJ has made himself the front-runner, last night Durant scored 42 points in just three quarters against the 76ers. We know the two are firm rivals and they are now trading blow for blow in an effort to edge ahead in the race for the best player in the league, so let’s look at how they compare.
Starting with their scoring notches, Durant is leading the league with an average of 31.7 points per game whilst LeBron is at 27.5 PPG. However, LeBron has an incredible 58.2% field goal percentage that eclipses a still impressive 51.0% mark from Durant, so there isn’t much room for manoeuvring there.
From beyond the arch, Durant is averaging 2.2 per game from 5.6 attempts with an FGP of 39.5% which beats LeBron’s 37.9% but he does attempt on 3.9 per game making 1.5. He’s also better from the line, with a 87.4% average on free throw attempts whilst LeBron is making 74.5% of his shots from the line from a lower amount of attempts.
This is where KD seems to start to pull away statistically, he’s leading LeBron is rebounds 7.7 to LBJ’s 6.9 and he’s also making 0.5 more blocks than the two-time NBA champion. LeBron does have more assists with him averaging 6.4 to KD’s 5.5 but he’s behind in both double-doubles and triple-doubles made this season.
The game isn’t just about stats though or the NBA would be played out on paper. LeBron is the leader of his time and if he doesn’t have a good game it usually means the Heat don’t have a good night. His supporting cast of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are aging and contributing less on a nightly basis, placing the team firmly on his strong shoulders. He is an athletic freak and a defensive monster, we all know that he’s capable of the almost impossible (see Cavaliers vs Pistons in 2007) but he’s in a real fight for both the MVP award and against the Pacers to reach the NBA finals.
Kevin Durant has really stepped it up this season, which is really something when we it’s regularly said he’s the second best player in the league by far. Without Westbrook for a good portion of the season, he’s been the number one leader on the team and helped them climb to the summit in the West. He’s still got a pretty healthy supporting cast with Serge Ibaka, Kendrik Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha but he’s been the key and when his team have needed a big performance, he’s done it.
In games between OKC and the Heat it’s been pretty evenly split with both winning one game each. In the first at Miami, it was Durant who came out the better with an overall performance despite LeBron having a better scoring day. The second in Oklahoma belonged to James, where he helped his Heat side with some excellent shooting and timely steals. However, these aren’t conclusive with the excellent displays from Bosh and Wade in Heat’s win and big contributions from Ibaka and the bench to help OKC in their victory.
It’s an argument that will go on until very late in the day but for me at this moment in time, it’s Kevin Durant’s to lose. He has been the better, more consistent player throughout the season so far and LeBron will have to pull out more outstanding performances to catch up with OKC’s Small Forward. But in the end, it’s just great to watch these two superstars duke it out and let’s hope that not only they continue to trade blows in the regular season but that they meet in the Finals to really see who is the best.