Forgotten MVP candidates of 2016-2017 season
Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors
When in 2016 summer Kevin Durant decided to move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors there were some doubts about his decision. At that time the Warriors were already an elite team with top players like Curry, Thompson and Green and without any necessary demand for improvements. But the deal has happened.
At first it looked that both Durant and the Warriors would not cope with the challenge – too many talents in one place. The beginning of a regular season immediately dissipated all doubts. Durant’s presence made the Golden State Warriors a better team on both ends of the floor. The Warriors presently have the best offensive (116.8) and defensive (103.7) ratings in the NBA. Past season they also were leaders offensively (114.5), but just fifth defensively.
This season Kevin Durant is averaging 25.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.7 blocks, 53.7 percent from the field and 37 percent from the 3-point range in 34.4 minutes (last year 35.8). Currently he’s demonstrating his best career shape in four categories: field percentage, blocks, rebounds and turnovers (career-low 2.3). Present season Durant has become a much better shooter, rim protector and rebounder plus he played in power forward position more than ever before:
“I’m trying to round my game out,” – Durant says – “I take pride in guarding every position and jumping at every guy coming to the basket. Whether I get dunked on or not or finished over the top of or not, it’s just muscle memory now to always get up there and try to protect the rim” (Via CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole). Even playing with bunch of stars Kevin Durant is capable to improve his game and become more versatile player than ever before.
Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors
Despite that the Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry is a two-time consecutive NBA MVP, this season he faces some ignorant talking about his possibilities to win the trophy the third time. Last year Curry averaged 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game and won the MVP title by a unanimous vote – the first time in NBA history. Compared with the previous season currently he demonstrates quite humble stats – 25.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists.
Seeing his decreased numbers you may get an idea that Curry is not the same player he was before Kevin Durant’s appearance in the Golden State Warriors team. But getting former MVP Award winner on your roster demands a lot of self-sacrifice and particularly from team’s leader Stephen Curry. Playing under these circumstances Curry is doing everything on the floor so that the team’s newcomer could feel comfortable as much as it’s possible.
Speaking about his declined stats Curry admits that he has some scoring and shooting problems at the first half of the season: “It doesn’t matter what the numbers say, if we’re winning, and I’m doing my job, my teammates know I’m doing my job. That’s all I’m worried about” (ESPN.com). But the best litmus to value Curry’s basketball mastery is that chemistry between him and another future Hall of Fame candidate Kevin Durant. And this detail must be counted in MVP Awards voting.
There are several objective reasons to support Curry’s influence on the game – currently the Golden State Warriors with 45 wins over 53 games are the NBA leading team. Another example why Curry and Durant duo’s mechanism is harmonious – they were both named Kia Players of Month for January.
Supporting Curry, Durant says: “People talk about him changing the game. A lot of younger players want to play how he plays. But his skill allows him to play that way, the shot making and the ball handling, the passing and just the fundamental skills of basketball that you learn as a kid” (NBA.com).
To sum up, Stephen Curry’s self-limitation on the floor is that basis which guarantee Kevin Durant’s success as the Warriors member. And also if Curry wins MVP trophy this year that will be a tremendous achievement because there are just three players – Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Bill Russell – who won the regular season’s MVP in three consecutive seasons.
This post is a response to Yiannis Bouranis’ article ‘The race for the MVP continues‘.