Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Durant's Injury Opens Door for New MVP

Reigning MVP Kevin Durant
Over the weekend, troubling news circulated through the basketball world: Kevin Durant had been hurt and expected to miss time. Since the initial reporting, it has since been clarified as a fractured foot. A tenative six to eight week time table for recovery has been given, but the reigning MVP will have to most likely wait through the first month to two months of the season before getting a chance to defend that title. The Thunder still have Russel Westbrook, one of the best players in the NBA, and he might be ready to explode with this opportunity to run the team while Durant gets himself healthy.  More than anything, if you are the Thunder, the most important piece of this to manage and take cautiously is Durant's recovery.

Several players before Durant have had a "Jones Fracture," as the article linked above calls it, and a couple of them recently have come back, only to have the injury re-occur and miss more time.  Hopefully for the NBA, its fans,and the Thunder, this isn't the case and he is able to come back and stay healthy. This injury most assuredly extinguishes any MVP repeat attempt by Durant. It leaves the door wide open, in my eyes, for someone new to be crowned at the end of the season. This means not LeBron either!

I'll start by stating why I don't think LeBron will win the MVP this year, although it would appear Durant's injury benefits King James the most for obvious reasons. However, this year, LeBron is in Cleveland and not Miami. The Cavaliers have a far better roster from top to bottom than the Miami Heat ever had with LeBron. Also, James is playing with two superstars, both of whom are younger than him. The "Oh it's all on LeBron" line won't play anymore. He has help, he has a youthful team that is probably thrilled to be playing with him. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love probably will be the biggest detractors in LeBron's pursuit of another MVP award. So if not Durant or LeBron, then whom?

Blake Griffin is everybody's favorite high flying, basketball throwing, video game advice giver.  Last year, Griffin's name started to get mentioned in potential candidates for the award.  This was the first time in the young power forward's career that he was in the discussion. It feels as if the name Griffin has been around for a decade now with the amount of highlights he has put up in four years in the NBA. He will be just 25 years old this year, though, and Griffin has done nothing but work on his game since arriving to the league. People see the dunks, but some may be shocked to know his game consists of more and more each year. 

In the 2013-14 season Griffin started putting up more jump shots in games. It wasn't too pretty, and he was not all that successful. Despite not having consistent range in his game, Griffin was still able to put up a pretty stellar 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and a strong 3.9 assists per game last year.  Furthermore, Blake saw career highs in shots attempted from 16 feet out last year. These shots totaled roughly 30 percent of his shots attempted in 2013-14 and were converted with meager success.

Fast forward to the first preseason game of the 2014-15 NBA season. Griffin comes out and nails his first 6 jump shots, including one three pointer. And boy does that jumper look nice now.  Now that defenders will have to account for Griffin being able to make shots from nearly anywhere on the floor now, it only makes his already ferocious drives to the rim that much more indefensible. The knock on Griffin being one dimensional will be put to rest for good this year. Having that jump shot will open up more for Griffin and his teammates. His athleticism and insatiable desire to be a complete player has transformed him into just that, as he enters his fifth year in the NBA. With these improvements, I believe Blake's name will, at the very least, be in the MVP talks all season long. A strong season and potential first place finish for the LA Clippers will definitely help his chances.  

There are a couple other players who will garner serious attention. Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge and Stephen Curry will definitely have their voices heard through out the season. Much of it may come down to where each player's respective team finishes in the Western Conference. Right now the Davis bandwagon is getting heavy, but remember he is younger than Griffin and still has areas to improve in and mistakes to learn from despite all his current greatness. Aldridge and Curry both do a lot for their teams, but both have yet to garner serious MVP attention on a yearly basis, save for Aldridge getting some mentions last year. With Paul George (out for season) and Durant hurt during the opening months of the season, the battle for 2014-15 NBA MVP is shaping up to be a bit more of a battle than in recent years.


Cole Miller, from Haddonfield, NJ, is currently a sophomore Sport Management major at Drexel. Aspiring to be a baseball or basketball scout, Cole  has volunteered for the 43rd SABR convention, a large convention with many speakers and other events for baseball fans who enjoy the new age statistics being brought to baseball such as WAR (wins above replacement ). He currently also writes for the Phillies prospect website, Phillies' Minor Thoughts.

You can connect with Cole on Twitter @CParker_Miller and on LinkedIn here.

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