No surprise that Kevin Durant is the NBA’s MVP.
Should we be surprised that he was not unanimous?
That was a question I posed in the latter editions of the MVP rankings I published every Wednesday during the regular season, and in one of the final versions I wrote that some members of the South Florida media would likely vote for LeBron James, denying Durant a unanimous vote.
Turns out that six first-place votes were cast for James — but none from South Florida. They were cast by Suns broadcaster Al McCoy, Spurs broadcaster Bill Land, Celtics broadcaster Cedric Maxwell, Kings broadcaster Grant Napear, Hawks broadcaster Steve Holman and Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald. All six gave their second-place vote to Durant.
I was the only voter to cast a second-place ballot for Griffin. And you probably want to know: Why did I do that?
Because the operative word in casting a ballot is “valuable.” And I strongly believe Griffin was more valuable to the Clippers than James was to the Heat. The Clips set a franchise record for victories, whereas the Heat lost eight more games than they did a season ago. Also, the Clippers won more games (57) than the Heat (54) despite playing in the tougher conference. And Griffin was the model of consistency throughout the latter two-thirds of the season, especially in March when he averaged an even 30 points per game.
It was in March that Griffin was in the midst of scoring 20 or more points in 31 consecutive games. LeBron’s longest streak of 20-point games was 10, done twice.
And although I was alone among voters putting Griffin second on my ballot, I was not alone in that line of thinking. And quite frankly, I’ll align myself with Doc Rivers on just about any topic – especially this one.
Finally, my vote was not anti-LeBron. It was pro-Griffin.
This is the first MVP award for Durant, who captured his fourth scoring title in five seasons, joining Wilt Chamberlain, George Gervin and Michael Jordan as the only players to accomplish this feat. Despite teammate Russell Westbrook appearing in only 46 games, Durant guided the Thunder to the NBA’s second-best record at 59-23.
Durant totaled 1,232 points, including 119 first-place votes, from a panel of 124 voters that consisted of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada as well as an NBA.com MVP fan vote, making for 125 total ballots.
Rounding out the top five in voting were James (891 points, six first-place votes), Griffin (434 points), Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (322 points), and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (85 points).
Durant averaged a career-best 32.0 points to go with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists, also a career high. In capturing his fourth scoring title, he joined Jordan (10), Chamberlain (seven), Gervin (four), and Allen Iverson (four) as the only players in league annals to win at least four scoring titles. He shot .503 from the field, .391 from three-point range and .873 from the line, leading all players in free throws made (703) and attempted (805).
Durant authored two 50-point games, topped the 40-point mark on 14 occasions and turned in 17 games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Durant’s consistency was highlighted by his streak of 41 consecutive games scoring at least 25 points from Jan. 7 through April 6. It was the longest streak since Michael Jordan did it in 40 straight games during the 1986-87 season and the third-longest single-season streak in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain, who did it in all 80 games during the 1961-62 season, and Oscar Robertson, who went for 25-plus in 46 straight games during the 1963-64 season. Chamberlain did it for 106 straight games over the course of the 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons.
Here are the complete vote totals:
Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City 119 6 – – –
LeBron James, Miami 6 118 1 – –
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers – 1 66 30 7
Joakim Noah, Chicago – – 32 50 12
James Harden, Houston – – 7 10 20
Stephen Curry, Golden State – – 4 9 19
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers – – 5 6 2
Al Jefferson, Charlotte – – 2 4 12
Paul George, Indiana – – 1 4 16
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – – 2 2 10
Kevin Love, Minnesota – – 2 3 6
Tim Duncan, San Antonio – – 1 3 7
Tony Parker, San Antonio – – 2 2 5
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas – – – 1 4
Carmelo Anthony, New York – – – 1 1
Goran Dragic, Phoenix – – – – 3
Mike Conley, Memphis – – – – 1