Not only did the NBA lockout shorten the 82-game regular season to just a 66-game sprint. It also has made picking the 2012 NBA Most Valuable Player a virtual toss-up.
Usually the team with the top player on the league’s best regular-season team gets the MVP. Last year that was point guard Derrick Rose for the Chicago Bulls, who played great on the league’s best regular-season team.
With just five games left, the Bulls again have the NBA’s best record at 46-14, and Rose has played good again, averaging 22 points a game. However, he has missed 24 games due to injury. That’s a lot.
The Bulls are in the Eastern Conference and are 17-7 in those games without Rose. Oklahoma City has the league’s second-best overall record at 44-16, led by Kevin Durant averaging 27.8 per game.
Miami at 42-17 has the league’s fourth-best overall record, led by LeBron James, third in scoring at 26.8 per game. Kobe Bryant leads the league in scoring at 28.1 for the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the league’s fifth-best record at 39-22.
I’m convinced that one of those three players — Durant, James or Bryant — will be MVP. You can make a great argument for all three stars. However, with the recent calf injury to Kobe and him missing four games, it’s coming down to Durant or James. And I would lean towards Durant.
Rose, James and Bryant have all won the MVP honor before, and precedent is huge with voters. But in my view, it’s Durant’s time to win the award.
Why? He has led the league in scoring twice already in back-to-back seasons, only the 11th player in NBA history to achieve that feat. He is averaging 7.9 rebounds per game. Oklahoma City has the best record in the Western Conference, just a game ahead of San Antonio, as well as the league’s second-best point differential at 6.7.
Durant has been the NBA’s player of the month twice this season, in February and March, and he might win April. He scored 43 points Saturday in a 115-110 win at Target Center over Minnesota. And, he is just percentage points behind Kobe for a potential third-straight league scoring title.
His range and his ability to hit the big shot with the game on the line is amazing. He was the NBA All-Star Game’s MVP, scoring 36 points with seven rebounds in the West team win.
And this is just his fourth NBA season.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.