Here's what I wrote the morning after LeBron James scored a career- and Miami Heat-franchise-high 61 points to beat the Charlotte Bobcats and forcefully reinsert himself in the running for the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award — a trophy James has won four times, including each of the last two years, but one that many observers had suggested belonged to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant this year: "The next six weeks, not the past four months, will determine who deserves the MVP, in what's likely to be the closest vote since Nash over Shaq in 2005." Here's what James and Durant have done since I wrote that: JAMES: 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 3.7 turnovers in 38.9 minutes per game; 53.1 percent shooting from the floor, 35.4 percent from 3-point range and 76 percent from the foul line; a 10-10 team record over 20 games. DURANT: 33.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks and 3.3 turnovers in 38.5 minutes per game; 50 percent shooting from the floor, 41.2 percent from 3-point range and 85.8 percent from the foul line; a 12-6 team record over 18 games. Which is to say, y'know, pretty much more of the same. Durant has been damn near unstoppable offensively for the entirety of the season, a sure bet to score at least 20 or 25 every single night, while taking on an increased role as both a scorer and facilitator amid the multiple knee-related absences of All-Star running buddy Russell Westbrook. He's also posting career highs in effective field goal percentage (which accounts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2-pointers), assist percentage (the share of his teammates' buckets on which he notches a direct assist) and Player Efficiency Rating (an admittedly imperfect, but still useful, stat), while using more Thunder possessions and turning the ball over less often than he has in three years. He's doing the same sorts of things he did before, but he's doing more of them, and he's doing them better. James, too, has been damn near unstoppable offensively for the entirety of the season, shooting a career-high percentage from the floor and continuing to score at an elite clip while taking on an increased role as both a scorer and facilitator amid the multiple knee-related absences of All-Star running buddy Dwyane Wade. But while his field-goal percentage just keeps going up, his 3-point accuracy is down from last year's high water mark, his rebounding and assist percentages are down, his PER is down, his turnover rate is up and his defense has been measurably worse. He's using a slightly higher share of Heat possessions than he did last year, but he's doing so a bit less efficiently and effectively; he's doing the same sorts of things he did before, but he's doing slightly less of them, and he's doing them a little worse.
LeBron James: Kevin Durant 'has played MVP-type basketball' and 'it would be great' if KD won MVP
Yahoo! Sports | Apr 10