Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The race for the 2012 NBA MVP award has come down to a battle between Miami Heat forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. But if you ask the latter, there shouldn’t be much of a discussion.
“He deserves all the love (for MVP),” Durant told the Daily Oklahoman of LeBron. “He’s playing phenomenal basketball. I’m just trying to get better every single game and trying to help my team as much as I can. I’m just blessed to be in that conversation.”
LeBron has been the catalyst to Miami’s run this season. The Heat will finish with the season with the number two seed in the playoffs again this season and that worked out to a finals run last year. LeBron has done it without great contributions from the other members of the Big Three.
Dwyane Wade has been out at various times for rest or recovering from injury and Chris Bosh has also missed a few games this season. The one constant throughout has been LeBron and his steady, superstar play.
For the season, LeBron is averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting better than 53 percent from the field. For comparison, the other MVP candidate is Kevin Durant who is averaging 27.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.
Where the separation between the two players comes is just how much LeBron brings to the floor every time he’s playing.
LeBron averages 34 percent of the Heat’s points, 40 percent of the Heat’s free throws attempted, and 39 percent of the team’s assists when he’s on the court. He also contributes a quarter of the total rebounds the team has when he is playing.
LeBron is superior in assists, steals, points, and free throws attempted when he is on the court compared to Durant.
LeBron’s big knock against him since he arrived in Miami has been a perceived lack of performance in the clutch. But even during the clutch, James is outperforming Durant.
LeBron is shooting 45 percent in the final minutes of games this season compared to Durant’s 39 percent. James is also the superior rebounder and assist man in the final five minutes of games compared to Durant.
Durant is a much better free throw shooter in the clutch than LeBron and while LeBron outshoots Durant from three point range in the clutch, with Durant at 33 percent and LeBron at 39 percent.
Part of the difference comes from LeBron’s ability to shut down multiple positions at any given point in the game. LeBron can guard the point guard position as well as anyone and can also go down low and give power forwards headaches if the Heat needs it.
The award won’t be announced yet, but after LeBron sat out Saturday and the Heat lost and then he returned Sunday and the Heat won, it’s pretty obvious that LeBron will be the driving force for the Heat’s success as long as he is in a Miami uniform.
He’s played at an MVP level all season long, even Durant recognizes it. The only question left is will the voters still hold LeBron’s decision against him, or whether enough time has passed for LeBron to be named the NBA MVP this season.
If he does win his third MVP award this season, he will join some very elite company. The only players to win at least three MVP awards include: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain.