Nets superstar Kevin Durant is having one of the best statistical seasons of his 14-year career, and the chatter among league observers suggests that the All-Star forward is in serious contention to win his second Most Valuable Player award.
Now 25 games into the season, Durant is averaging 28.4 points-per-game, which puts him atop his peers as the preeminent scorer in the NBA. Along with 7.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists, and the best team record in the Eastern Conference, Durant finds himself trailing only Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, and tied with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, as the betting-odds favorite to take home the league’s most prestigious individual award.
FanDuel Sportsbook, an online sports betting website, currently lists the MVP odds for Durant (and Antetokounmpo) at +500, meaning gamblers would win $5 for every $1 they bet. Meanwhile, Curry is the consensus number-one pick at +150, representing a 150% payout on any wager.
After that top tier of candidates, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic stands at +1500, and Dallas Mavericks prodigy Luka Doncic is +2500.
Curry, who trails Durant by less than one point-per-game so far this season, has led the resurgent Warriors to a league-best 21-4 record, despite the absence of superstar teammate Klay Thompson.
The Nets are not without their own troubles, though, as perennial All-Star Kyrie Irving has yet to make his debut this season due to New York City’s vaccine mandates, and Irving’s unwillingness to get the jab.
James Harden, meanwhile, has recorded just 20.9 points-per-game, which, if it were to continue through the season, would be the lowest point total since he became an NBA starter in 2012. Making matters worse, Harden currently boasts a 40.1% field goal percentage, which is the lowest of his entire career, and is averaging 5 turnovers per contest — much to the chagrin of the fans.
Harden gets boo’d by Nets fans after his 7th turnover pic.twitter.com/WP2BzwRhAS
— CrossedSports (@crossedsportsig) November 28, 2021
Irving’s absence, and Harden’s relatively lackluster play has forced 33-year-old Durant to take a greater role in leading the Nets offense — and he’s delivered.
His 52 percent field goal percentage would represent the second best of his career, despite carrying a heavier burden than in previous seasons, and has made some of the biggest baskets of the season to swing the outcome of critical games.
Kevin Durant in the clutch. This is about as close to automatic as any difficult shot can get. pic.twitter.com/xU6itT7lSX
— Positive Residual (@presidual) December 8, 2021
Interestingly, Durant’s play style this year has noticeably challenged the conventional wisdom in the NBA that has guided players to attempt more three pointers — as his 4.6 shots per-game from behind the arc would represent the lowest number since 2012.
Instead, Durant has honed in on mid-range shooting, which many statisticians have argued is an inefficient approach to the game, as players are far from the basket, but without the beneficial possibility of scoring three points, rather than two.
But the superstar from Barclays Center has thrown that critique to the wind, and it’s paid off big time for both Durant personally, as well as the Nets chances to bring the first NBA championship to Brooklyn.
And adding to the impressiveness of Durant’s monster season, it comes just two years after he underwent major surgery for a ruptured right achilles, which forced him to sit out the entire 2019-2020 season.
After that injury, some skeptics speculated that Durant would never truly recover back to full form — but his play this season has bluntly ended that conversation.
But even with his spectacular performance so far, Durant will still face an uphill climb to catch Curry, and to fend off hordes of other wannabe MVPs for the NBA’s top solo award.