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Kevin Durant is still in the lead on the Kia MVP Ladder, sitting at number one. Who can argue that? He is averaging 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He is second in the League with 2.1 blocks per game, and the Warriors have the best record in the NBA at 35/9 and a .795 winning percentage. This is what the NBA's Sekou Smith had to say about Durant:

It’s how rest of his game has evolved that has legitimized any conversation about him being the top player in the league (based on his current shine and not just history or reputation). Durant’s shot blocking prowess -- he ranks second in the league in total blocks (76) -- has turned him into a surprising rim protector and a situational defensive stopper whenever coach Steve Kerr needs him to fill that role.

Kevin has adapted to Coach Steve Kerr's offensive and defensive schemes, and he has done it seamlessly. The same can be said for the Celtics Kyrie Irving, who takes second place in the ratings after moving up from number three. Kyrie is averaging 24.0 PPG, 5.0 APG and 3.5 RPG for the season, but it is what he has done recently that gets my attention.


For the past five games, Irving's scoring has dropped slightly, but his rebounds have soared to 7.5 per game while still managing to distribute the ball to the tune of 5.4 assists/game. He is dangerous from anywhere on the court and can almost score at will, but he plays a true team game. He talks like he dribbles. You never know where he is going with the ball or his latest discourse. Here's what the NBA's Secou Smith thinks about Irving:

And Irving's all-around work throughout this stretch (last 5 games) -- 7.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists -- hasn't gone unnoticed. The fact is, his presence has helped elevate the game of youngsters Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. He's also done a nice job finding his own niche in the Celtics’ defensive fabric. The Celtics simply would not be the team they are without Irving’s imprint on what they do, which is exactly what he was looking for when he requested that trade from Cleveland over the summer.

Elevating the game of youngsters, as stated by Smith, is vital in analyzing Irving's place in the MVP ratings. Take him out of the Celtics equation, and what do you have? Who could step in as such a dangerous scoring threat and get the ball to teammates at the right spots at the right time, all while improving the play of his young teammates still learning the ropes?

James Harden comes in at the third spot, followed by Stephen Curry fourth. DeMar DeRozen moves up from the eighth spot to fifth. Lebron James slips out of the top-5 and sits at number six, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo in seventh place. The Cavaliers struggles and discord in the ranks has not been kind to Lebron in the MVP race, but he will continue to be in the competition.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Issac Baldizin

Tom Lane 1/15/2018 06:41:00 AM Edit
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