Additionally, Durant led the Thunder to a 59-23 record, good for the second-best in the Western Conference, even though All-Star guard Russell Westbrook was in and out of the lineup all season due to knee injuries. Durant likely solidified his MVP chances when he scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games, eclipsing Bulls legend Michael Jordan for the longest such streak during the three-point era. Along the way, Durant tallied a career-high 54 points against the Warriors and 51 points, including a game-winner, against the Raptors. All told, Durant scored at least 40 points in 14 different games this season.
Chris Mannix: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Ballot: Durant, LeBron James, Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin, Goran Dragic
James effectively conceded the MVP to Durant last week, and with good reason: Save for a brief stretch at the end of February, Durant has been consistently dominant. He led the NBA in scoring (career best 31.9 points with one game to play) and surpassed Michael Jordan’s record for consecutive 25-point games (41). He is as complete as he has been at any point in his career and gets bonus points for putting OKC on his back during Russell Westbrooks extended absence. Ask any scout: James is still the best player in basketball. Same scouts: Durant is having the best season.
Lee Jenkins: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Ballot: Durant, LeBron James, Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson
Durant is runner-up no more. After finishing second to James three times in the MVP balloting, he overshadowed him this season. James was still spectacular, but his production dipped a bit, opening the door for Durant. The race for third was equally competitive. After Paul George faded, a handful of versatile big men emerged, led by Noah, who does not score much for an MVP candidate but carried the Bulls on both ends of the court over the past two months.
Ben Golliver: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Ballot: Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Paul George
The clear choice is Durant, who boasts more wins, better numbers and a better narrative than James. I expected a monster scoring season from Durant, but I didn’t foresee the Thunder star surpassing James in catch-all advanced stats like PER (which James has led the league in for six straight seasons) and Win Shares. He provided value through sheer ability, historic consistency and leadership, and his title quest will be one of the league’s most entertaining storylines over the next few months. James remains a clear second, followed by Paul (the engine behind a Clippers juggernaut), Curry (the most dynamic offensive player besides Durant and James) and George (a two-way rock for the East’s best team, who makes the cut despite fading a bit since the All-Star break).
Rob Mahoney: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Ballot: Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin
Durant might have initially gained ground in the MVP race by way of circumstance, but in the months since he’s pushed ahead by dominating in every setting possible. With or without Westbrook, on or off the ball, facing single coverage or triple teams — context seems secondary with Durant, who has been so holistically excellent that he’s outpaced the best player in the league. Beyond that, I like Curry for his transformational influence on Golden State’s offense, Paul for his brilliant (and somehow unheralded) two-way utility and Griffin for his growth into a more fully formed star.
Matt Dollinger: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Ballot: Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Joakim Noah, Paul George
This has nothing to do with voter fatigue. Durant has taken his game to new heights, while also managing to diversify it in the process. He averaged a career-best 5.5 assists per game and dealt 100 more dimes than any other Thunder player this season. He also led the league in scoring while toeing 50/40/90 shooting splits. He’s prolific and proficient — a deadly duo that made him the most potent player in the league this season. The rest of my ballot is made up of the most indispensable players of 2013-14. The Heat, Clippers, Bulls and Pacers wouldn’t be where they are without brilliant play from its No. 1s.
The 2007 No. 2 overall pick, who went one-and-done at Texas, has earned All-NBA First Team honors in each of the last four seasons and he has four scoring titles on his résumé. Durant will join Bulls guard Derrick Rose as the only players other than James to win the MVP award since 2009.