Oklahoma City Thunder: If Kevin Durant wants to be the NBA's MVP, now is his chance

With point guard Russell Westbrook projected to miss at least seven weeks after undergoing a second arthroscopic surgery to his right knee, Durant now has an opportunity to lead the Thunder as its lone remaining All-Star.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 28, 2013

That's why Durant must make a mockery of the Thunder's most recent hardship. He's still playing catch-up in what in many categories is a career season.

Keep the Thunder at or near the top of the rugged Western Conference Standings, though, and Durant will get the credit he deserves.

Many already are wondering aloud how far the Thunder will fall without Westbrook.

“Oklahoma City goes from a heavy favorite to win the West to a slight underdog,” ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote, using data from his projection system.

Previous attempts by Durant at keeping the Thunder afloat without Westbrook were unsuccessful.

Oklahoma City went 3-6 in last year's postseason following Westbrook's initial knee injury. The Thunder is 3-1 this year without Westbrook.

In those contests, Durant has averaged 30.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting 45 percent. At first glance, those numbers appear extraordinary. But they belie how much both Durant and the Thunder struggled. Durant's shooting percentages plummeted without Westbrook, and OKC's efficiency also went into a tailspin.

In 25 games with Westbrook this season, for example, the Thunder averaged 107.9 points. In four games without him, the Thunder averaged just 91.5 points.

Additionally, a .462 winning percentage — the life the Thunder has known without Westbrook — extrapolates into a 12-15 record should Westbrook be sidelined for 27 games.

Hardly a record worthy of MVP consideration.

So if Durant is indeed done with being second, now is his best time to prove it.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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