Meanwhile, in a year we now forget the once-loaded Lakers were supposed to threaten a 70-win season and become the lone hope to stop a Heat-peat, Durant is having a better year than everyone.
A half-game back of the Clippers for the league’s best record, the Thunder has been devoid of drama or losing streaks since moving James Harden, one of the top 15 players in the league, to Houston. The Wizards are the only team currently with a losing record to beat Oklahoma City this season.
Almost-midseason most valuable player awards mean nothing, but if anyone is making the best claim to win his first trophy now it’s the District’s own. In fact, if Durant were to win he would be the first Washington-area recipient ever. Neither Elgin Baylor nor Dave Bing, as great as they were, won an MVP.
I hate that sports is now dissected in essentially two ways – human-interest angles and algorithms. And I’ve yet to see any team’s use of sabermetrics lead to a world championship of any kind; data still can’t get to the line with 10 seconds left. But while watching another effortless Durant 24-foot jump shot swish through in the game’s final minute Monday night, I have to give it up to the Moneyball crowd on this one:
Durant’s numbers tell the story of why he is having the best season in pro basketball – heck, one of the greatest seasons of any shooter ever in the NBA.
Do you know how many players have finished a season shooting 50 percent from the field, 90 percent from the free throw line and 40 percent from behind the three-point line since 1979-80, the first year three-pointers were counted? Five.
Steve Nash. Larry Bird. Mark Price. Reggie Miller. Dirk Nowitzki. That’s it. That’s the list. And Nash and Bird are the only players to do it more than one season. Durant is now on pace to become No. 6 in the .50/.40/.90 club.
Third in scoring, he takes two fewer shots per game than LeBron and Carmelo, the other two genuine MVP candidates. He’s also averaging career highs in assists, steals and blocks. As good a season as Anthony is having, Durant is a better defender; he plays both ends of the court as well as anyone outside of LeBron.
And clutch, so clutch.
As John Thompson Jr. said last year while assessing Durant’s talent to Baylor and other great players from the District, “It’s not how many he scores; it’s when he scores.”
A time-tested hoophead argument is what player you would want to take the last shot at the end of a tie game. For years I said Larry. Then I came around to Michael. I actually settled on Reggie Miller, post-Jordan, before Kobe took up permanent residence.