|Our roundtable panel discusses if LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant would be our midseason NBA MVP. (sportsnet.ca)|
BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among three of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.
This week's question: Who would be the NBA midseason MVP?
Nike's ad campaign tries to convince you that Kevin Durant is not nice, but his game sure is. This is really a three-horse race between Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, but I think Durant is the close winner, and if I had a ballot, that would be my order. Durant has really evolved from being a pure shooter to a complete scorer. His post game has improved, he is great in transition and he is the best shooter out of the three. Durant is also continuing to improve in all other aspects of his game as well. His numbers this year are higher than his career numbers in rebounding, assists, blocks, steals, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Not bad. And remember, he's only 24 years old. These numbers could get even better.
James is still the most complete player in the game and Anthony probably would have been my pick after the first month of the season, but has battled injuries that are keeping him out of games. Neither player has been able to get their team to where the Thunder are right now, which always plays a factor in MVP voting (which is why Kobe Byrant is not in this conversation, and the fact he's needing too many shots to get his points). The Thunder look to be on a clear path back to the NBA Finals with Durant scorching opponents along the way.
Kevin Durant, already an All-Star and scoring champion, has taken his play to new levels since the Oklahoma City Thunder traded their vaunted sixth-man to Houston. Carmelo Anthony, too, has put together impressive an impressive case for himself with his usual array of offensive weapons (he's second in points per game at 29.3, fifth in total points with 878) and by finally improving the other aspects of his game (his new willingness to pass and play defense have helped him get to fourth in the league in Player Efficiency Rating). Even Chris Paul is worth of candidacy for midseason MVP, having turned the Los Angeles Clippers into a freight train, but he plays relatively few minutes each night (he's outside the top 20 in mpg) and LA's excellent bench makes his impact less apparent when he leaves the floor.
LeBron James is more important to his team than all of those stars and he's still playing at a level competitive to or exceeding them. He's doing it playing the third fewest nightly minutes of his career, too. Miami's Big Three is not Dwyane Wade, a Mega-Pippen and Chris Bosh. It's not even James and two Pippen-type sidekicks. The Big Three is LeBron; an aging and, because of nagging injuries and a loss of explosiveness, often ineffective Wade; and an inconsistent Bosh playing center.
With the weight of three big contracts on his shoulders, James is ranked 10th in assists, 13th in defensive rebounds and tenth in field goal percentage, the latter being a category where Durant barely cracks the top 20 and Anthony is not in the field. Though James may be trailing Durant in other statistical fields (points, Win Shares, Win Shares per 48 minutes), he is the league leader in PER. Part of reason Miami is viewed as "struggling" with a 26-12 record is because of the big names on its roster and the intense speculation that LeBron draws, but he is also the reason this isn't a just-over-.500 team right now.
My midseason MVP has to go to Kevin Durant. Despite moving James Harden this past offseason, the Thunder have improved again this season, boasting the best record in the NBA. This is in no small part due to Durant’s performance this season. Durant is shooting a blistering 52 percent from the floor so far this year and is again in the top three in points scored per game with nearly 29. He also has raised his game from behind the arc, hitting 40 percent of his shots from downtown, his best since his sophomore season. He has a career high in assists per game and is still rebounding very well. I seriously considered picking Lebron James or Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo is having a career year, and Lebron is as good as he’s ever been. However, neither has been able to propel his team to where Durant has the young Thunder squad. Durant has been a leader for the Thunder since before the team ever moved to Oklahoma City and it’s showing up this season more than ever. All these components are why Durant is my pick for midseason MVP.
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