The 2013-14 NBA season has officially ended, so now it’s time for regular season awards before the real season starts on Saturday. There’s a lot of wiggle room before we’re able to name some of the winners, which is why for Dime‘s 2014 NBA Awards we had our writers and contributors provide their top-three choices in an abridged version of what the NBA does with certain media members. Next up, the race for third place and a pretty overwhelming victor for the two-man battle that decided this season’s MVP award.
Players were awarded three points for first place, two points for second place and one point for third place. Their point totals determined their placement.
We’ve already covered the race for third place in the MVP voting. And our voters awarded it to the same guy here. While we’ve written endlessly on the two-man battle for MVP this season, it’s not even really that close. Still, it’s important we put a capstone on Kevin Durant‘s first MVP season, and the only way to do that is go through the rigamarole associated with trying to compare his career-year with his closest competitor(s).
3. Blake Griffin
Listen, third place isn’t bad — especially this year. And Blake even got a nod for Most Improved Player. But he’s just not on the same level as a LeBron or Durant. Not yet at least. But he made a jump this season, and not just on a micro level like PER or some other statistic that attempts to boil down the effectiveness and usefulness of a player. He’s not just a highlight machine. He gets to the line, he has become rather adroit handling the ball, often facilitating offense on the break in CP3′s absence. He’s averaging career highs in a lot of categories we already went through in our missive for Most Improved. On top of the improved jumper, the willingness to attack the rim even when it’s a lot easier to just pick-and-pop and an emphasis on defense that hopefully translates to an above-average defender, Blake can still jump out of the gym. He’s No. 3 this year and we feel fine about that.
Apologies to the only other person people put in their top three, Joakim Noah, and Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Love and the like…But it really always just came down to these next two. Sorry, but see you again next year — or next decade.
2. LeBron James
It’s not often a guy can go for 61 points in a game, hit a game-winning three-pointer on a fadeaway, shoot 57 percent as the primary ball handler on the perimeter while also shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc, sport a PER of 29.3 and a TS percentage of .640 with an eFG percentage of .610 while averaging 27.1 points, 6.4 assists and 6.9 rebounds in 37.7 minutes a night and still be considered a long-shot to take home the MVP trophy. But that’s exactly what’s happened to LeBron James this season. It’s a year where he’s continued to show he’s the best player in the world; except, maybe not the best in the 5 and a half months of this season.
We still think he’s a better passer than KD, and that might always be the case. The guy is just a basketball savant that’s finally learned — or had the teammates around him that he needed — how to take advantage of all the eyeballs he attacts when he has the ball.
But while people should still refer to LeBron as the best — at least until someone else raises the Larry O’Brien trophy — he wasn’t the best this season. It’s perhaps unfair to gloss over all the heavy lifting James did with the absence of Dwyane Wade this season, something that’s been overlooked as fans ogle Durant’s sans-Westbrook offensive fireworks. But James’ brilliance, at least offensively, hasn’t dimmed…
Its just that KD’s has burned that much brighter.
1. Kevin Durant
This season Kevin Durant averaged more PPG than anyone in NBA history not named Kobe, MJ or Wilt. He carried the Thunder to the No. 2 spot in the West without their second best player for more than a third of the season. He’s got a PER that hovered over 30 for most of the season before dipping to 29.9 towards the end. He averaged 9.4 RPG despite still looking like a svelte Gumby. He has the most natural shooting motion we’ve ever witnessed. He came really close to another 50/40/90 season (his splits: 50/39/87) while sporting a higher usage percentage than the man just below him on this list (33.0 vs. 31.0). He led the league in Win Shares by 3.2 (besting ‘Bron 19.2 to 16.0 — the next closest was Kevin Love at 14.3, so the difference between Kevin Love and LeBron James was closer than the one between James and Durant — at least according to the win share formula). Durant also wrested control from Stephen Curry as the new League Pass leader in “Holy crap, you have to turn on the Thunder game RIGHT NOW” something we just didn’t think was possible — and Steph was even better this season!
That’s what makes Durant’s year so amazing. Whenever you compare him to the very best in the world, he’s usually better. He’s become an excellent player on the defensive end, so much so that we’ve seen a lot of people putting him on their All-Defensive First Team lists. While he still can’t distribute the ball like James, he’s developed into a great passer, particularly out of the pick-and-roll when the defense inevitably jumps out to double him and get the ball out of his hands.
We’re too tired to look up his clutch numbers this season, but he’s hit a few game-winners. In case you forgot, there was this one, and that one (both in that incredible January without Russ), and who can forget this.
Both the voters, and LeBron himself, agree with us, too:
1) Kevin Durant 1st place (8), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (0) = 24
2) LeBron James 1st place (0), 2nd place (8), 3rd place (0) = 16
3) Blake Griffin 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (6) = 6
4) Joakim Noah 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (2) = 2
(H/T Dime contributor Matthew Hochberg for vote counting and research)
By how big a landslide does Durant win the MVP?
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