This season has flown by. It’s already the end of January & we’re already at the mid point of the 82 game NBA season. Before the season began there were many questions; Heat 3-peat? Can the Pacers close the gap? Did the window close on Oklahoma City? Houston’s BIG 3… I mean 2… I mean… Jeremy what’s his name again? Will Dwight even work out in Houston? The Spurs beating father time?

But back to that OKC Thunder topic: according to many before this season, the window was closing on the Thunder. Former Thunder cornerstone James Harden was killing it in Houston with a career best in points per game at 25.9, rebounds at 4.9/game, steals with 1.8/game & assists at 5.8/game. The Thunder entered the NBA playoff bracket with a Western Conference best, 60-22 mark last season, & the front office got the sweet taste of knocking out the new-look-bearded-Rockets (James Harden’s 1st season with Houston) 4-2 in the 6 game series. That series was pivotal… it was in game two of that Thunder/Rockets series, in which OKC had lost their All-Star Point Guard, Russell Westbrook, to a meniscus tear in his right knee. Westbrook had finished the 2012-2013 season 6th (23.2 ppg) in the Association in scoring & 7th in assists (7.4 ast/g). Game three of that series was the 1st time Kevin Durant had played without Westbrook, since the 2008 season when Russell came into the League. KD & the Thunder would eventually be bounced out in the Western Conference Semifinals by a fierce Memphis Grizzlies squad- quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to KD.

What Kevin Durant learned to do during the 2012-2013 NBA playoffs was to play without Russell, a task I’m pretty sure he’s figured out. This season, Westbrook underwent his 3rd knee surgery in 8 months, on December 27, & will be gone through the All-Star break (February 14-16 in New Orleans). Including that December 27 match-up vs. the Charlotte Bobcats (KD had 34), Durant has gone for 30+ in 13 of the last 15 Thunder games including nights of: 34, 33, 37, 48, 48, 30, 33, 37, 36, 54, 30, 46 & 36 points. He has the NBA’s 4 highest scoring games this season & over the past week (Thursday January 16-23) Durant has scored 202 points in 5 games, that’s 40 a night!

Yes, the emergence of 3rd year guard Reggie Jackson at the Point position has been not only absolutely necessary, but a very pleasant surprise. Who knew Reggie Jackson, a guy getting roughly 13 minutes per game over his first two seasons with 4.2 points per, would fill the Westbrook void like he has… But KD knows it’s on him more than ever & he has accepted that role with open arms.

Yes, in the New Year, Durant has been a flamethrower torching nets nation-wide, but it’s bigger than that. KD has started every one of the Thunder’s 43 games playing roughly all but 10 minutes each game & he’s not just scoring at his best rate in his career (31.0ppg), he’s having his third best year rebounding the rock with 7.7/game, he’s distributing the ball better than ever with a career high 5.1 ast/game, & he’s also averaging his best defensive output with 1.5 steals/game (career high) & 0.8 blocks/game. 

Kevin Durant validated that he was in Tier 1 of NBA talent last year, when he joined the “50-40-90 club” (50% FG, 40% 3P, 90%FT), a membership that includes only 5 other players (Bird 2x, Dirk, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, & Steve Nash 4x). But this year he’s proved to everyone he is the most valuable player on the court to his team. What about LeBron? I’m a HUGE LBJ fan, but run the numbers-

 

Player/

Stat

Games

Played

MIN

FG%

3FG%

FT%

REB

AST

TOV

STL

BLK

PTS

Durant

43

 

37.8

50.4%

41.3%

88.2%

7.7

5.1

3.3

1.5

.8

31.0

James

41

37.1

58%

37.2%

76.1%

5.7

6.7

3.5

1.3

.3

26.2

We’re midway through the season & there’s no one else in the Association who is More Valuable than the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Forward Kevin Durant….

KD = MVP

-- AB