When Kevin Durant was universally loved, he won the MVP. It was 2014, Durant’s seventh NBA season. 32 points averaged that year for KD still remains a Kevin Durant career high. He added 7 rebounds, nearly 6 assists, an offensive rating of 123 and a defensive rating of 104. His PER of 29.8 was a career high. He scored 40 points or more 14 times, and on a second night of a back to back against Toronto, he scored 51, shooting 58% from three, pulling in 12 boards, and playing 51 minutes in an overtime game, the last of a three game road trip. Two months earlier, on the second night of a back to back, he scored 54 points against the Warriors.
Five years later, and for the same city, Paul George is dazzling in much the same way Durant dazzled. This is Paul George’s ninth season. His 28 points is a career high. He has career highs in field goals made, 3-pointers made, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, assists and steals. His 119 offensive rating is a career high and his 104 defensive rating matches Durant in his MVP year. He scored 40 points or more 7 times. In consecutive games in December, he dropped 43 points, shooting 55% and 60% against Sacramento and Utah, on the road. In consecutive games in February, he scored 45 and 47 points, making 42% and 61% of his threes, against tough Western Conference contenders, the Rockets and Blazers.
Unlike Durant in 2014, Paul George for MVP is on the lips of only a few. It is either Giannis or James Harden dominating the MVP buzz. But George, each and every night, is not only the best player on the Thunder, but he is driving the Thunder to excellence.
It’s not that people aren’t noticing. They are. But what they like to talk about when it pertains to OKC is how Westbrook is getting triple doubles and how he is not shooting the ball with any kind of efficiency and how the Thunder still struggle at times at ball movement. They are 21st in assists. That kills a team come playoffs where the iso game is easy to defend.
But this is true about the Thunder too. George is saving them, night in and night out, in a different way than Harden is saving the Rockets, but the bottom line is still the same. No, it is not as dramatic as step back threes, and routine visits to the line, but it is getting the job done.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is not saving anyone. He is just the best player on a deep team that knows how to move the ball, shoot the ball, and rebound the ball. It’s why he will win the MVP. But Paul George is doing everything he can to take votes away from James Harden.
But can he win the MVP in an upset?
Yes. If the Thunder find magic in a bottle and go on a run of 17 wins in a row and finish second in the west. We remember the last thing we see. George may steal some votes. But the MVP is small change. What George is doing now is more important than the MVP award.
It’s like that quote. Wherever you go, there you are.
Consider: Two years after Kevin Durant won the MVP, the Thunder lost in the Western Conference Finals, (after leading the Warriors 3-1). Durant then jumped ship.
With Paul George leading them, the Thunder may find themselves back in the Western Conference Finals with a chance at knocking off the Warriors and Kevin Durant. The team that Durant ditched is the team that can stop Durant cold and with a player doing Durant like things in an OKC jersey with the name George on the back.
Paul George: beloved in Oklahoma the way Kevin Durant once was.