As an active NBA player, I don’t have a vote for league MVP. But if I did, it would go to Kevin Durant.
I unequivocally believe that Kevin has earned that honor this season, and it’s not because he’s going to win the scoring title again. He has provided a MVP-caliber performance on both ends of the floor, and in his approach to the game.
We’ve been sitting at or near the top of the Western Conference, the toughest conference in basketball, for the entire season. That’s due in large part to KD.
Kevin put our team on his back during a stretch when our second best player, Russell Westbrook, was out. During that period of time, we won 20 of our 27 games. That’s the stretch that people should use to measure whether or not this is Kevin’s year to win the MVP.
He’s made an adjustment to do a little bit less since Russell’s been back, but statistically, he’s still doing the same things. He’s performed at the level of consistency that an MVP winner performs at. He’s scored the ball, he’s rebounded, he’s defended, he’s assisted, he’s facilitated, and he hasn’t taken any nights off.
This streak he’s on of consecutive 25-point games is proof of that. For any player, any time you’ve done something that is in the realm of what Michael Jordan did at any time in his career, it says a lot about what you’re doing, and how you’re performing.
I don’t know how much that Kevin really thinks or cares about that streak, but it says a lot about who he is. He always comes out trying to play at the highest level he’s capable of playing. Regardless of the opponent, regardless of the situation, regardless of which guys are in the lineup for us or in the lineup for the other team, Kevin’s going out there to be the best player on the floor.
He’s had some of those signature MVP performances that separate him from the other guys who might be in the MVP race — most recently, his 51-point performance in Toronto in double overtime. It was amazing to play in that game, and see his ability to get to that level, especially when we really needed a win.
That’s the main difference in Kevin from last year to this year. This year, he’s in a great place in terms of his composure and poise. Last year, he was wound so tight, he was almost playing with a tension and stress level that was always right on the edge of being too much. This year, he’s consciously done things in a way that have brought that tension and stress level down.
But it’s not as though he’s removed himself or disconnected. He’s still very impassioned and competing hard. He’s still getting technical fouls. But you can see and feel in his daily routine that everything is designed to keep things on an even keel: don’t get too high, don’t get too low. He knows that if he trusts his daily preparation, things will be fine.
It’s a delicate balance and impossible to measure, to be honest. You have to be right on that edge to get the most out of yourself and your teammates. That’s what I’ve noticed from other great players I’ve played with. Kobe and Shaq come to mind.
That line is as fragile as you’ll ever find. You can’t omit the highest levels of passion and competitiveness when you’re playing at an elite level. But at the same time, there’s a level of composure and poise that you must have in order to handle the rising stress. You can’t be an emotional wreck. You can’t be over the edge psychologically and emotionally. That won’t allow you to be able to manage things and let things go — let a bad call go, let a few missed shots go, let a bad quarter go, let a bad playoff loss go, and move on to the next thing.
Kevin has been able to find that balance. There’s an ease and efficiency that he plays with that gives you the impression or the perception that he’s not trying too hard. But that also is reality. He’s just doing what he does, playing his game and doing the things that he’s capable of doing. I think people appreciate the level of humility that he approaches his success with. That’s why so many people value and respect what he brings to the game — not just for our team, but to the NBA as a whole. He’s not going overboard. He’s not trying to win the MVP.
He is the MVP.