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NBA Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder: Is Kevin Durant This Year’s MVP?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Is Kevin Durant the 2012-13 NBA regular season’s most valuable player?

Through the great seasons and attention grabbing performances players like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard (kidding) are having, it’s easy for Durant to get lost in the shuffle.

After all, compared to the players mentioned he plays in the smallest basketball market which could hurt him when it comes time to voting as he won’t have the backing of a New York or Los Angeles media.

However, when looking at the type of season he and the Oklahoma City Thunder are having, it’s easy to make the case for Durant as this season’s MVP.

Through 53 games, he leads the league in scoring with 29.2 points per game while also leading the Thunder to the second best record in the Western Conference at 39-14. Durant is also averaging career highs in field goal percentage with an incredible 51.9 percent, assists with 4.4 per contest, three-point shooting (42.7 percent), free-throw shooting (90.7 percent), blocks (1.2) and steals (1.6). The numbers only prove the sixth year small forward is getting better and better as he enters his prime at the youthful age of 24.

Despite the career year Durant is having, is it good enough to claim MVP honors from the rest of the top talent in the league?

Compared to Anthony, Durant’s numbers are better across the board. In fact, Anthony doesn’t beat Durant in any statistical category. Given Durant also plays in the much tougher Western Conference, and his team has seven more wins than Anthony’s, it’s easy to dismiss Anthony as a threat to Durant.

Durant also has Paul beat in every statistical category besides assists and steals but the two play completely different positions, so it’s unfair to judge the two on stats. However, what could hurt Paul in the MVP argument is the time he missed due to injury. Paul has missed 12 games and his team went 6-6 without him. If the Thunder lost Durant for double-digit games, there would be no chance they’d be able to avoid a losing record, no matter how good people think Russell Westbrook is.

For those wondering where another Los Angeles player, Kobe Bryant, stands in all this. It’s simple. He doesn’t stand anywhere close to the MVP discussion given the horrible drama filled situation that has surrounded the purple and gold all season.

The only true threat to prevent Durant from MVP honors is the one player that might be the favorite for the award at this time of the season. James is having an incredible year and his recent streak of history setting games won’t be quickly forgotten when it comes time to vote, however, comparing the stats suggest it’s a lot closer than some might think.

Durant: 29.2 pts, 7.4 reb, 4.4 ast, 1.6 stl, 1.2 blk, 51.9 percent FG, 42.7 percent 3PT, 90.7 percent FT

James: 27.3 pts, 8.2 reb (career high), 6.9 ast, 1.7 stl, 0.9 blk, 56.5 percent FG (career high), 42.4 percent 3PT (career high), 74.5 percent FT

A quick look at the numbers prove both players are having career years and both players have each other beat in various categories. However, given the numbers aren’t dramatically different between the two, the team records will likely be the deciding factor. Currently, Oklahoma City has three more wins than the Miami Heat, however, they’ve also played three more games than the defending champions.

At the same time, the Heat play in the worst division in the league along with the much easier Eastern Conference. Not to mention, defenses worry a lot more about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh than they do Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, which instantly makes James’ job easier. While at the same time, James is surrounded by multiple three-point shooters which only helps space the floor and inflates the assist totals after drive and kick-outs. Not to take away from James’ superb playmaking, however, if Durant had the offensive weapons James had, his assist totals would certainly rise.

When it comes down to the two best players in the game, not only is Durant four years younger than James but he’s also accomplishing great numbers with less talent and with a harder schedule.

For these reasons, Durant should be the 2012-13 MVP.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the NBA and NHL for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts