3. Chris Paul: 385 points (6)
4. Kobe Bryant: 352 points (2)
5. Tony Parker: 331 points (4)
Explanation: The spectacular scoring numbers had always been there. But this is when Durant experienced a noticeable bump in efficiency. After never shooting better than 47 percent, Durant bumped that clip up to nearly 50. He was taking smarter shots and making a lot more. This was the closest he got to an MVP before finally winning it in 2013-14.
MVP top five
1. LeBron James: 1,207 points (120 first-place votes)
2. Kevin Durant: 765 points
3. Carmelo Anthony: 475 points (1)
4. Chris Paul: 289 points
5. Kobe Bryant: 184 points
Explanation: His defense continued to get better. His improved playmaking was on full display, with a career-high in assists. And his efficiency was at a historic rate, becoming only the sixth player ever to join the 50-40-90 club. But MVP-wise, Durant’s marked improvements in all areas were all for naught. LeBron’s career year trumped Durant’s, highlighted by a legendary 27-game win streak. This award was always his.
MVP top five
1. Kevin Durant: 1,232 points (119 first-place votes)
2. LeBron James: 891 points (6)
3. Blake Griffin: 434 points
4. Joakim Noah: 322 points
5. James Harden: 85 points
Explanation: Durant’s spectacular play and steady improvements were finally paired with the proper circumstances. Because of Russell Westbrook’s injury issues, Durant was forced to shoulder a heavier load. And he responded, leading the Thunder to 59 wins and putting together the best stretch of his life during a 15-2 mid-January stretch without Westbrook. James didn’t lose this award. Durant took it.
By Anthony Slater