“Kevin Durant: ‘I’m tired of being second … I’m done with it.”
This was Kevin Durant’s evident frustration after it was clear that LeBron James was about to win his fourth MVP title in 5 years last year. KD was tired of being labeled as “the second best superstar in basketball”.
However, Kevin Durant’s frustration of not winning the MVP, again, was only augmented as the Thunder made an early second round exit from the 2013 Playoffs in a 5 game series loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. In that series, KD’s ferocious sidekick Russell Westbrook was out with a knee injury that put basically the Thunder’s title quest in Kevin Durant’s hands, and guess what? The NBA’s second best superstar faltered. In four straight losses to Memphis after winning Game 1, Kevin Durant came up short game after game. He missed free throws, air balled threes, and was lazy on defense; all which came after a spectacular 2013 campaign where KD joined Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, and Dirk Nowitzki in the 40-50-90 club, referring to players who averaged at least a 40 percent 3 point percentage, a 50 percent field goal percentage, and a 90 percent free throw percentage. Many claim that the Thunder’s disappointing end in 2013 has made them hungrier for another shot in the Finals.
2014 has been a whole new story for Kevin Durant as now he is almost unanimously the MVP choice for this past season. KD averaged 32 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, and 5. 5 assists this season along with leading the league in PER(Player Efficiency Rating). However, the star has claimed many times that the MVP means nothing to him if he can’t bring home a title. In many regards, he is right. If the Thunder don’t win a title, their season gets labeled as a failure. It’s championship or bust for the team driven by Kevin Durant. However, the key to the Thunder’s Championship run in the 2014 playoffs is not just in Kevin Durant’s hands. Other teams in the playoffs know that Kevin Durant is going to get his share of points, rebounds, and assists, but the winning formula for the Thunder starts with their complementary pieces. First and foremost, their second superstar Russell Westbrook needs to move past his third knee surgery in the past eleven months and still be as explosive and tenacious as he has been throughout his burgeoning career. In combination with the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, role players really need to step up for the OKC Thunder this season. Their new acquisition of Caron Butler, Thabo Sefalosha’s defense, and Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson’s scoring off the bench will be huge for the Thunder’s success.
Though Kevin Durant has clearly elevated his game to a whole new level this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a long way to go truly attain what KD wants: a championship. The quest starts with the rest of the team, however, as team play will dictate whether the Thunder are able to make a deep run in the playoffs. As seen with LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Kevin Durant himself last year, one superstar cannot do it all by himself.
So, the big answer is No; Kevin Durant’s big season doesn’t necessarily correlate with the Thunder winning a title, however, if they would like to have any chance he needs to continue to play at his MVP level, while also involving his teammates, which will be his key to the promise land.