The NBA MVP race hasn’t been close in recent years, with LeBron James winning the award by a wide margin. Finally in the 2013-2014 season, the Miami Heat star has some serious competition.
With a little more than a month to go in the regular season, James is not the favorite to be named the MVP. According to Bovada.lv, Kevin Durant has the best betting odds at 1/3. James is behind him with 2/1 odds.
In the last two years, Durant has finished No.2 in the race. He received 24 first-place votes in 2012, compared to James’s 85. Last season, James was nearly the unanimous winner, with the only first-place vote he didn’t receive going to Carmelo Anthony. Still, Durant finished in second place with 93 second-place votes and 765 total points.
James isn’t the underdog because his performance has slipped. He’s been as good as ever, averaging 27.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.3 assists. While his assist and rebound average is down a little from last season, he’s shooting a career-high 57.7 percent from the field. The Indiana Pacers may end up with the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but the Heat are still on pace to win 60 games.
As good as James has been, though, Durant’s numbers might be even better. He’s set to win another scoring title, averaging 31.8 points per game. He’s shooting an incredible 51 percent from the field, and no player since Michael Jordan in the 1991-1992 season has ever averaged at least 30 points on 50 percent shooting. In addition, he’s posting 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Durant’s season is the way the Oklahoma City Thunder have played. Without Russell Westbrook for almost half the year, the 25-year-old has led his team to the top mark in the West. Eight teams in the conference are at least 10 games over .500, but Durant has the Thunder alone, as the No.1 seed, at 46-16.
Both James and Durant have recorded some of the best individual games in recent years. On March 3, James may have had the season’s best performance, scoring 61 points on just 33 field goal attempts. A day later, Durant responded with 42 points of his own on 70 percent shooting.
It’s essentially a two-man race, though a few players are in the running to come in third place. Kevin Love and Paul George might be the top contenders to finish in the top three. Chris Paul should also receive some votes.