Kevin Durant in NBA MVP race on way to leading East in All-Star votes


Share post:

NEW ORLEANS — When the first round of NBA All-Star voting came out Thursday, Kevin Durant sat atop the Eastern Conference. 

It was the latest sign that the superstar is not only at the peak of his powers — having arguably his most efficient season despite being 34 — but has spent the past month lifting the Nets near the top of the standings and himself into the MVP race. 

Brooklyn (25-13) comes into Friday’s game with the Pelicans fresh off its first loss in a month, a defeat in Chicago. But even as the Nets’ league-best 12-game winning streak was snapped, Durant was stellar with 44 points on 15 of 22 shooting. He’s been white-hot coming into their clash with the Pelicans. 

The Nets come into Smoothie King Center having won 16 of their past 18, and Durant has averaged 30.8 points in that span on misprint-like 61.4/41.9/96.2 shooting splits. And he’s looked not just dominant but happy, the latter perhaps even more important for Brooklyn considering Durant’s offseason trade request. 

That summer drama might slow his MVP candidacy, but it hasn’t stopped it.

Kevin Durant (7) shoots over Zach LaVine (8) and Ayo Dosunmu (12) of the Chicago Bulls during the first half at United Center on January 4, 2023 in Chicago.
Getty Images

“Durant’s been great,” former Nets assistant GM-turned ESPN Insider Bobby Marks told The Post. “There are so many MVP candidates. I don’t have a vote, but what happened in the summer wouldn’t sway me from voting for Kevin Durant for MVP. 

“[It] wouldn’t sway me from voting for Kyrie Irving — if he continues playing at a high level — for All-NBA. I think you have to kind of separate the two things here a little, especially with the trade demand. Kyrie’s a different situation with everything there.”

That’s backed up not just by the early fan vote, but by nearly every metric. 

Las Vegas calls Durant an MVP contender, given the fifth-best odds by BetMGM to win the award again — behind Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Boston’s Jayson Tatum. He was eighth on Nov. 1 when Steve Nash was fired as coach and Jacque Vaughn took over a floundering 2-5 team. 

The stats say so as well, Durant putting up career-bests in field-goal percentage (56.8), effective field-goal percentage (61.5), true shooting (68.0) and free-throw shooting (93.3), all at the age of 34. 

“What’s 34 in NBA years?” asked Irving, the leading vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards. “What’s 34 mean?” 

It means that at a stage when players often start declining — and power forwards frequently fall off a steep cliff — Durant has found a way to still be ascending.

Kevin Durant (7) is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) and Patrick Williams (44).
Kevin Durant (7) is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) and Patrick Williams (44).

“If he gets better, that would be wonderful for him, but I don’t know how you can get a whole lot better,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who coached Durant and Team USA to Tokyo Olympic gold. “He’s doing a great job. He loves the game as much as anybody has ever loved the game. He just wants to play.” 

Durant’s love of the game is what is allowing him to have kept focused through all the chaos that surrounded the Nets. And though he has often said that fans hate him, at least a couple million must love him. His 3,118,545 votes lead the Eastern Conference, and trail only Lakers star LeBron James’ 3,168,694. 

Irving’s 2,071,715 top all Eastern Conference guards, and Nic Claxton’s 160,407 are ninth among East frontcourt players. (Fans account for half of the vote to determine the starters, with current players and a media panel each accounting for a quarter of the vote). 

“I think [Irving has] played like an All-Star. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t voted in by the coaches. I don’t know where he gets for the fan vote, but somehow he’d get voted in by the fans or by the coaches,” Marks had told The Post shortly before the first fan vote was released. “I think he’s a big reason, along with Jacque and Kevin, with how he’s playing.” 

But no single reason is bigger than Durant, whose value for the Nets has never been clearer.

Source link

Related articles

Lakers stars LeBron James, Anthony Davis deny relationship friction in

Anthony Davis won’t back claims that suggest he and fellow Lakers star LeBron James lack a strong...

Princeton Head Coach Mitch Henderson discusses their 86-75 loss to Creighton (Video)

Princeton Head Coach Mitch Henderson discusses their 86-75 loss to Creighton (Video) | New York Post Next Previous Source...

Allen Lazard not concerned on Aaron Rodgers’ Jets trade falling through

Allen Lazard is not concerned about the Aaron Rodgers stalemate. While the Jets and Packers have still not...

Bet $1 and get $365 in Bet Credits for Saturday’s slate

Commercial content. 21+. Readers both in and outside of Ohio can get their hands on a gigantic...