Kevin Durant is the MVP. He’s been the best player in the league this season and has done things we’ve never seen from a scoring perspective especially when putting his shooting percentages and usage rate into context.
Now that that’s out the way, the need to create conversation has us pondering how the MVP ballots will finish out. Durant finishing number one likely means Lebron James will finish number two. This is the popular consensus among fans and writers, but Clippers head coach Doc Rivers sees things a little differently:
“I think second because I’m coaching him,” Rivers said of Griffin. “I think Durant has had the best year. I still think LeBron [James] is still the best player in the NBA but I think Durant has had an MVP year. I don’t know who has had a better year. And I honestly think Blake would be right behind him.”
“When Chris Paul went out, you saw that he took his game to another level. You also saw his leadership. It’s one thing to put numbers up but you have to put numbers up by leading and helping your team win, and that’s what he did. He won a lot of games without him. He’s going to be an MVP candidate for many years.
via Doc Rivers: Blake Griffin behind KD | ESPN Los Angeles
Blake Griffin has been good this season. Actually, saying he’s just been good is an insult to how well he’s played this year. In what many look at as a breakout season, only Kevin Love can make a case to have been a better power forward than him. He’s looking more confident in the post, his jump shot has improved and the shift in the offense, one that requires less Chris Paul handling the ball than in previous years, has allowed Griffin to have a bigger impact offense.
But he hasn’t been better than Lebron James, nor is he a bigger MVP candidate than the 2014 league MVP. The problem with Griffin being the MVP runner-up is one that often coincides with the increase of narratives that have run rampant throughout sports media. We seem to have fallen in love with the better story rather than properly critiquing what we see. Blake Griffin has been exactly that: a better story, but Lebron James has been the better player and it isn’t really close. James has been more efficient from the field, has defended better, even in a down year, and has carried a bigger load than Griffin has. The only case Griffin has over James is a better record in a better conference and that’s a little one considering how this award usually awards who is the better player, not the best player on the best team.
Since being acquired by the Clippers, Rivers hasn’t been afraid to boast about his players to the media. In his eyes DeAndre Jordan was an All-Star and should be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Does he actually believe these sentiments? Possibly, but it all comes off as an attempt to increase the confidence of his players, something a few of them has lacked prior to his arrival. Saying Griffin deserves a higher place on the MVP ballot than James falls in this category.
At the end of the day, the runner-up of MVP doesn’t matter. But in a year where James’ efforts have come off as sub-human, he’s still the second best player in the league.
Griffin can fight with Stephen Curry, Joakim Noah, and Kevin Love for third on the ballots.