Tuesday, December 24, 2013
West MVP of the First Trimester
By Marc Stein
KD keeps raising his game in Oklahoma City, where his supporting cast seems to constantly change.
Western Conference MVP of the First Trimester: Kevin Durant, Thunder
You certainly aren't wrong.
You're absolutely correct if you want to ask why I haven't pulled one of those Trimester tricks I've been known to pull where I give a guy some spotlight in the first or second Trimester Report even when I know he has no shot to win the real-life award at season's end ... in the name of making sure we don't forget about Player X, Y or Z. (Á la Isaiah Thomas.)
Can't do it here, though. Can't do that to either of the two best players in the game, because they've frankly both been brilliant since the ball was tossed up for the first time way back before Halloween.
I say that even with Minnesota's Kevin Love regularly uncorking stat lines that Wilt Chamberlain could live with and making you ashamed to even bring up the points he'll undoubtedly be docked in the spring because his team can't seem to escape the .500 Club. Friendly reminder: Wilt (twice), Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only players in history to average 25 points, 15 boards and 5 assists over the course of a full season, but Love is making a legit run at trying to join that super select trio.
First Trimester Report
A new format doesn't change the fact that I'm a nostalgic, old sap.
So it should come as zero surprise, with Christmas almost here and teams crossing the 27-game threshold all over the NBA map, that Stein Line Live is invoking Weekend Dime tradition by rolling out our annual First Trimester Report.
The only difference is that each of the seven trimester categories will be unveiled one at a time in the world of SLL. But the basic premise is the same: Through the prism of the NBA's major award categories, this is how we take stock of what we've seen one-third of the way through the schedule.
Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, meanwhile, has taken an undeniable leap to cement himself as one of the game's elite power forwards, averaging a double-double for the first time in his career as the top gun among the many scoring threats on the Cinderellas from Portland.
The Clippers' Chris Paul and Golden State's Steph Curry have sparkled, too, when you zoom in on the individual skill and will and killer production they routinely supply.
Yet I just couldn't sell myself, as great as they've all been, on putting, say, Love or Aldridge in lights for even one Trimester.
Not with Durant doing what he's been doing.
Harmless as it would have been to let one of KD's conference rivals enjoy some Christmas shine, there's no ignoring the way Durant has started the season without a flinch. No James Harden. No Kevin Martin. No full-speed Russell Westbrook for the first couple of weeks, either.
Cue the proverbial No problem.
Durant is leading the league in scoring as usual at 28.1 points per game while also averaging career bests in rebounds (8.1) and assists (4.7). His shooting percentages from the floor and the line are a shade under last season's otherworldly standards, but only the nitpickiest of voters could dock him for that.
I was among those coming into the season with loud questions about what the Thunder have to show for Harden at the moment -- Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and a trade exception created through Martin's exit until cashing in the other first-round pick owed by Houston via Dallas -- and what that would do to Durant's demeanor. Yet if he's at all frustrated, it's pretty tough to tell given how steely Durant has been in steering OKC to a 67-win pace.
Really, really wanted to go with Love or Aldridge as my First Trimester MVP. Really did.