Tag Archives: Kevin Durant

Are James Harden and DeMar DeRozan legitimate MVP candidates?

Toronto Raptors beat Indiana Pacers in game five 102-99 in their first round NBA playoff series

DeRozan has become an offensive machine and could be a dark horse for MVP. Source: The Undefeated

After the first month or so of the NBA season, there are already whispers about the MVP award. With Kevin Durant unsurprisingly impressing in his new surroundings at the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James doing things only the king does and Blake Griffin rebounding on the best team in the league, there are a fair few candidates putting themselves forward.

Two that have really caught the eye are two that could be there if they keep this kind of form going. DeMar DeRozan has elevated his already great offensive game for the Toronto Raptors and James Harden is simply adding to his special tool-set down with the Houston Rockets.

DeRozan is playing some of the best basketball of his life and it’s a marketed step up from someone who is already at an All-Star level. The 27-year-old is averaging 30.9 points per game, over seven points better than his career-best set last season and is a solid .491 from the field overall.

Those are some great numbers highlighted by the fact he takes just under two three-pointers a game. With a game that is only getting more shooter-happy, it’s great to see a midrange guy showing his excellence on offence from inside the arc.

USP NBA: PLAYOFFS-HOUSTON ROCKETS AT GOLDEN STATE S BKN USA CA

Source: For The Win

That is also emphasised by his ability to get to the line when he does slash into the paint. DeRozan averages 9.6 free throws per game and is .807 from the line so far, solid numbers that help pad what has been an outstanding scoring run so far from him.

Another player who is great at getting to the line is fellow early season MVP candidate James Harden, who has taken the move to point guard like a duck to water. He’s averaging 28.6 points per game, a relative standard for a high-volume scorer like him, but his league-leading 12.4 assists per contest highlights the influence he’s having on his entire team this season.

Add to that some solid rebounding (7.8 per game) and a solid .365 from beyond the three-point line and you have a stat-padder ready to take on anyone in the NBA. He’s probably the best player in the entire league at getting to the free throw line, leaving teams off balance as whether to close him or to stand off him.

When they attack, he punishes them with speed and a likely foul, which a .810 FT shooter tends not to miss. If they stand off, he rises and shoots from anywhere with his beautiful arching shot that seems to touch the roof on occasion before gliding through the hoop. There is a reason many tipped him to be a dark horse in this year’s MVP race.

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Westbrook is a bigger front-runner than the two, they both need to emulate his influence. Source: Bleacher Report

However, they are both without initial deficiencies that will hold them back unless they expand their game. DeRozan is simply a scorer and while ok on defence, he isn’t quite doing enough to keep his team winning while Harden can fall asleep when holding off the opposition.

Comparing them both to another big MVP candidate in Russell Westbrook just proves that both will need that bit more to legitimately chase that title this season. He’s better than both on average at scoring, he’s hit 10.4 assists per game and 9.6 rebounds, almost a triple-double a game.

All of their teams have similar records, all are doing a great job but Westbrook is doing literally everything he can to push his team on almost single-handedly. There’s no doubting their quality and the real positive is that there is plenty of time for them to help push their games to the next level along with their teams, which will only strengthen their candidacy.

Both are going to be All-Stars this year if they keep going and both of their teams should be shoo-ins for the playoffs. The real question is, can either of them push themselves to the point where they can be considered in the running for the MVP award? Only time will tell on that one.

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Oklahoma City Thunder will benefit from a Russell Westbrook scorned

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Westbrook can carry this team and he looks ready for the challenge. Source: newsok.com

In a terrific piece by Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical, Russell Westbrook did not dither or waste any moment worrying about a future without Kevin Durant. All he cared about was what would be next.

What looked like coming was a trade away from the Oklahoma City Thunder, with a number of clubs willing to take his services. The team needed an answer now, not content with losing another superstar for nothing next summer and if Westbrook gave them the indication, they would find him another basketball franchise.

Instead, Westbrook did what many did not expect him to do, including myself. He took Durant’s want away attitude personally, dusted off the news and showed his loyalty to the team that had crafted him into a special point guard.

On Thursday, he signed a three-year deal that includes a player option in that final season, potentially worth $85.7m if he completes the contract. It does inflate his pocket but at the same time, Westbrook has taken the baton to be the heart and soul of this team and he is planning to run away with it.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks

This will be an interesting meeting, which reportedly will take place in November. Source: nesn.com

It’s the kind of loyalty we rarely see, especially in smaller market teams, but Westbrook has a sense of belonging in OKC. He doesn’t have a great number of friends on other teams, he feels responsible for those around him in the team and it’s clear that he does not want to let them down the same way he feels Durant has.

To say he hit another level without the small forward back in 2015 may be putting a bit lightly. He bumped his average points per game to 28.1, posting career-best averages in both rebounds and assists and while it wasn’t quite enough to get him team into the playoffs, it made everyone stand up to take notice.

This season he continued that form, except from his points average took a dip along with his shots per game with Durant back in the starting five. However, he was a triple-double machine that even improved on last year’s averages in rebounds and assists, reaching double figures in the latter for the first time.

It really showed his evolution as a player and he excelled in the post-season as well, almost lifting OKC to the NBA Finals. A humbling fightback from the Golden State Warriors halted that run but that will just be another burn that will fire up Westbrook to go one stage further.

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Still the greatest Halloween costume, which just highlights his loyalty to his teammates. Source: CBS Sports

With the additions his team has made, it’s hard to see the Thunder as contenders but whenever you have someone of that quality, you always have a chance. Almost like a saiyan in Dragonball Z, Westbrook grows in strength with every heavy blow he’s faced and his desire to succeed will frighten many teams to death this upcoming season.

The NBA should be wary of a Westbrook scorned. Already at an elite level, this could be the extra motivation to push himself to be the best of what he can be and could elevate him to an MVP he feels he deserves.

Step in front of this runaway freight train if you dare.

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Kevin Durant makes the Golden State Warriors a sporting powerhouse

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs

Durant is in the top three best players in the league and he’s joining one of the other two, it’s that big. Source: slamonline.com

Two days ago, the internet shook as Kevin Durant revealed his destination for his NBA future.

He chose the Golden State Warriors.

In a move that makes the beaten NBA finalists look more like the Monstars from Space Jam, the whole NBA stood with their mouths open to the news. Why would Durant do this? How will they all get the shots they need? But more importantly, who can stop them?

The first question is pretty simple, KD is determined to win. Some will take a chop at him for joining another bunch of superstars, which he has every right to do and some will call it “weak sauce” that he joined a team that beat his Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.

That series was really the only chance that OKC could convince him to stick around long term and even then, with Russell Westbrook’s future up in the air with or without the small forward, it was a difficult sell. The Warriors can win now, have a good-to-great-to-MVP player in every starting position and adding him almost guarantees a ring somewhere down the line.

The second question is absurd, as they all know the real key in basketball is to get everyone involved. The benefit they have now is that they have at least four excellent players that can take over the game in a pinch should they find themselves on an off night.

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These three will be delighted to add a fourth big name to their roster. Source: nbabayarea.com

Steph Curry, the reigning two-time MVP, can rain threes as can his splash brother Klay Thompson. As seen in the playoffs, Draymond Green can get it going as well so to add a player that averages over 27.4 points in his career can only be a good thing, even if on some nights he doesn’t put up 25 shots.

The biggest question is that final one and it’s a tough one to answer as there isn’t a clear way to stop them. They have so much range with a smaller unit, able to shoot from absolutely anywhere and with a number of very good options that can all score heavily even when contested.

Someone would have to come up with a stellar defensive performance for four quarters that at least kills some of their three-point threat and then emulate the Cleveland Cavaliers and crush them in the paint where they struggle the most with the smaller line-up. Even saying that, it would have to be a superhuman effort to deny them when they are all locked in and even if one or two aren’t, they have at least another two to lean on.

Adding a player of Durant’s calibre to any team would be a shot in the arm. He was the top average scorer in the playoffs with 28.4 points per game, was third in scoring in the regular season and the 2014 MVP has really bounced back with a vengeance from his injury-ravaged 2014-15 campaign.

When you put him in the mix with a championship-chasing team that could feasibly win it without him, that creates a scary prospect. This is a team no one will look forward to facing next season and should they go on to win it all, this could be a dynasty that could dominate the basketball world for years to come.

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NBA teams make moves in preparation for another big free agency

As the NBA Draft came round the corner and free agency lurked on the horizon, it’s usually that time of year where teams begin to strong-arm themselves into a position. Whether that be a clear rebuild, shifting assets to have more money or adding players to look like a more enticing unit to a prospective free agent, everyone wants to show their hand.

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Teague is a super pick up for the Pacers. Source: slamonline.com

That started when the Indiana Pacers traded for Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague in a real statement move from a franchise ready to compete now. Teague is a former All-Star, an excellent scorer in the paint and should relieve some of the workload from Paul George.

Add those two to some interesting pieces like Myles Turner and the newly acquired Thaddeus Young and Indiana could be a dangerous team in the East. They pushed the Toronto Raptors to seven games and despite losing coach Frank Vogel, they are a side to keep an eye on going forward.

Atlanta are handing the keys to Dennis Schroder, who has impressed in spurts, as well as freeing up some cap space. They are desperate to resign Al Horford and Teague was seen as dispencable with the German waiting in the wings behind him.

They gained a first-round pick from the Utah Jazz, who selected Taurean Prince for them, and he at least defensively will be a replacement should Horford go. That also sets up a piece for their future, which must be the direction the Hawks will go in if they struggle to compete in the upcoming free agency.

Utah gain George Hill from this trade and it’s a tidy piece of business for them. They’ve struggled at the guard position and to get an underrated veteran that can play both the one and the two will help this team reach another level in terms of competing for a playoff spot.

Whether they will compete for some low-level free agents to push them even further on is yet to be seen but this was still a solid move. Whether it’ll be worth the 12th pick in the draft remains to be seen but they will not be disappointed with what Hill will bring to this team

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Rose to New York is a no-lose situation for the Knicks. Source: sportingnews.com

Another team that have made a big move is the New York Knicks, who traded for Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks definitely needed to get better and Rose is certainly an upgrade, even if he has lost a step since his knee injuries over the last few years.

He’s still a good driver and had a slightly better season last time out, which means he’s worth the one-year risk to see if he can become a great player in the league again. The only worry will be that he, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis all need to get their shots with none of them regarded as excellent assist makes.

Chicago needed this break as much as Rose did and with his deal winding down, they got as much as they could for him. Robin Lopez is a solid starter in this league, especially as they are resigned to losing both Joachim Noah and Pau Gasol, and Jose Calderon can be a stop-gap player while they find a new point guard.

It also opens up the fact that Jimmy Butler is now the star on this team but the fact they looked to deal him to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night should worry fans. The Bulls look just about ready for a rebuild and this could be a tricky season for them.

Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Five

If Ibaka can rediscover his form and gets more involved offensively, this could be a really good move for the Magic. Source: Sportal.co.nz

The final big deal happened on draft night itself as the Oklahoma City Thunder moved Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic. The team in the East get a solid-to-great player that has stagnated a little in the last few years, especially after looking like a defensive beast back in 2012-13.

He is solid from three-point range and if he can rediscover his form as a leader on a young, improving team then this is a great addition. It frees up Elfrid Payton as the starter at point guard, he’ll pull attention away from Nikola Vucevic and with new coach Vogel at the helm, the Magic are on the rise.

As for the Thunder, there is zero chance that this deal was not sanctioned without the explicit consent of Kevin Durant. A lot will be on hold while we wait to see where KD will be next season but OKC will do everything in their power to convince him to stay for at least one more year.

Victor Oladipo was a great pickup, who could even start at the two-guard and give the team another solid scoring option. He could even be a leader as a sixth-man if Dion Waiters bolts town and he should be a great third option for the team going forward.

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