Cloud Coverage: In Praise of Second Best

You don’t need me to tell you this, but Kevin Durant just turned in one of the most transcendent offensive seasons in NBA history. He becomes only the sixth member of the 50/40/90 club, reserved for players that shoot 50% from the floor, 40% on 3-pointers and 90% from the free throw line. (He’s the eighth if you count the seasons had by Steve Kerr and Jose Calderon in which they hit the percentages but didn’t make enough shots in a category to qualify for the “league leaders” list.) Durant is also the youngest player to make it into the club and his 28.15 points per game is the second highest scoring average for a 50/40/90 season behind Larry Bird’s 29 PPG in the 1987-88 season. So yeah, this was pretty good.

Despite this, Durant is going to finish second in the scoring title chase and in the MVP voting. Let’s address the MVP voting first. It goes to show how absolutely bonkers LeBron James has been this year that KD has put together this kind of output and nobody cares. LeBron will be the MVP and it’s the right choice. He’s been the best player this year. But it’s closer than you would think. I feel the need to scream from the rafters that last year, next year, maybe even ten  years from now provided that we haven’t replaced the NBA with some mutant/android basketball competition, the season that Kevin Durant just had would have been far and away an MVP year.

The scoring title is a more nuanced issue. I would have loved to see KD try and hit 70 against the Bucks on Wednesday. (He ABSOLUTELY could have gotten it. The team would have helped him out even if it meant ruining the 50/40/90, and the Bucks were so bad that it might not have. I mean, it took them all four quarters to shake the Thunder’s Garbage Time All-Stars) I just want to run a few more stats by you in comparing KD and Carmelo Anthony’s output. In the month of April, when Melo made his run, he averaged 10 more points than Durant. He also took ten more shots and was shooting around 35-40%. He only averaged a fraction of a rebound more than KD, and (this is the big one) KD averaged almost 4 more assists per game than Melo. Kevin Durant didn’t even take the most shots on his own TEAM this year, and still led the league in total points. Yes, Melo seven games with a groin injury, but it’s not like KD was playing 48 a night in that stretch. Durant has sat out 14 entire fourth quarters this year, almost four whole games. This isn’t including the times when he and Russell Westbrook got shut down halfway through the 4th after the game got out of hand. So yeah, Melo gets the scoring title because math, but Durant’s game still deserves praise for how much it’s evolved as a complete package.

Enough about just Kevin Durant. Tomorrow starts my favorite time of the NBA year, the first day of playoffs! Below I’m going to run a bite-sized preview of each matchup in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The next sentence is going to be my entire Eastern Conference preview: The Heat are going to be in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year unless J.R. Smith becomes utterly unstoppable (POSSIBLE) or if a team playing the Heat signs Delonte West to get buckets and throw off LeBron.


Thunder/Rockets: THE HARDEN BOWL! It makes sense in the wake of the biggest and most surprising trades in recent NBA history that they meet in the playoffs. The Thunder are playing not only to validate the decision made at the beginning of the season, but Sam Presti is putting his GM title belt on the line against the plucky underdog Daryl Morey. Also we get to watch Jeremy Lin try to defend Russell Westbrook. This should be fun. (Prediction: Thunder in 5)

Spurs/Lakers: The improbable Lakers season continues. From paper champion, to fighting for .500, to the seven seed in the playoffs even without Kobe, it’s been a wild ride for this team. The Spurs are kind of banged up too, AND they just signed Tracy McGrady, who has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs as a member of an active roster. That being said, if this Spurs team can’t beat this Lakers team that’s needing 20 points a night from Steve Blake, we should get TMac to a shaman because he is for real cursed. (Spurs in 5)

Nuggets/Warriors: I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS SERIES!!!! There’s going to be all kinds of scoring going on. As has been documented, Steph Curry’s jump shot and JaVale McGee’s existence are two of my favorite things in the league so putting them together makes me so unbelievably happy. Add in the Manimal Kenneth Faried and the sharpshooting of Klay Thompson and you’ve got a must-watch series that I hope finds a way to last 10 games. (Nuggets in 6)

Grizzlies/Clippers: This was an absolute brawl last year and I’m glad we’re running it back. We’ll see if Lob City can make their way through the defensive trio of The Grindfather Tony Allen, Z-Bo and Big Man Marc Gasol. This series is going to get chippy quick and I can’t wait to see everyone throw down. I guarantee that Vinny Del Negro will mismanage the Clips out of at least one game in this series. (Griz in 7)

There you have it, everything I care to tell you about the Western Conference Playoffs. Let’s strap in, because the next two months have some of the best basketball we’re going to see possibly ever. Thunder Up! (whatever that means)


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