The 2014 NBA MVP has been crowned, and Kevin Durant displayed the heart of a most valuable player when he delivered a tear jerking speech that recognized each and every teammate, staff member, and family member who had helped him reach his current state of greatness. But though Durant was awarded the MVP trophy for the regular season, the star forward has had difficulty staying consistent throughout the postseason.
Durant’s offensive productivity has struggled, as his playoff statistics reveal significant dips in points per game, assists per game, and field goal percentage compared to the regular season. The lack of consistency has shown in the Thunder’s playoff performance, as the number two team in the West struggled during its gritty seven-game war with the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that the Thunder should have handled quite easily. Were a Playoff MVP award to be handed out today, Durant would not be in contention. Instead, a handful of players from around the league would be considered, all of whom have taken their game to the next level when it matters most.
Not only has Kevin Durant not been the MVP of the league in the postseason, he has not even been the MVP of his own team. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has been the true mover and shaker in Oklahoma City as of late. Normally playing second fiddle to his taller teammate, Westbrook has put up three triple doubles in a span of five playoff games, and is currently averaging 26.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per outing, sizeable increases from his regular season’s 21.8, 5.7, and 6.9 respectively. If the Thunder are able to make it to the conference finals this season, it would seem that the brunt of the glory should be directed toward Westbrook.
Another player that has come alive in the postseason is LeMarcus Aldridge. The Trailblazer has been the primary force in Portland, leading his team with 30.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. En route to the second round, Aldridge outplayed the always-tough Dwight Howard, who is arguably the league’s best center.
Also taking his game to the next level this playoff season has been Bradley Beal. The Washington Wizards handled the Chicago Bulls fairly easily in the first round, upsetting the fourth-ranked team in only five games. Bradley Beal was the driving force behind this effort. The second-year guard has put up 20.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists this postseason, numbers that have opponents such as Indiana’s Paul George calling Beal the NBA’s next big thing. The fact that the youngster is only 20 years old is all the more promising.
Finally, what is an MVP discussion without LeBron James? The NBA’s most polarizing figure has been intensely consistent, as the Miami Heat have made short work of all opponents. Throughout the past three seasons, James has been a man on a mission come playoff time, and though he has not had any jaw-dropping performances this season, he has been without blemish game in and game out. Should the Heat raise another championship banner this June, there is no doubt that LeBron James will be crowned the Finals MVP.
If Kevin Durant is to keep his spot on the MVP throne he is going to elevate his game in the second half of the playoffs. The competition is fierce, and there are quite a few opposing players chomping at the bit for their chance at glory. It is time for the MVP to step it up a notch.