Head-to-Head: Who Will Win the 2014-15 Scoring Title?

Kevin Durant is the favorite to win the scoring title again, but he’s facing stiff competition that could dethrone him.

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Since 2009, only one player not named Kevin Durant has led the league in scoring (Carmelo Anthony during the 2012-13 season). Despite the fact that he is going to miss the first portion of the regular season due to a Jones fracture in his foot, Durant remains a pretty safe bet to lead the league in scoring again. So, we asked three of our experts to choose the player most likely to dethrone the favorite:

There has never been any doubt Stephen Curry can shoot. The Golden State Warriors point guard has continually improved his game season after season, knocking down baskets and dishing out assists. Last season Curry ranked seventh in scoring with 24.0 points per game, up from 22.9 in 2012-13. Only 26, he still has years to reach his full potential.

What sets Curry apart from other leading scorers is his high three-point shooting percentage. He shot 42.4 percent last season (10th in the league), the highest among the NBA’s top 25 scorers. Curry averaged 3.3 treys per game, compared to 2.4 from Kevin Durant and 1.5 from LeBron James. Draining threes can quickly boost his totals.

Health has always been the biggest concern with Curry. If he can stay on the court for 82 games, he could take the scoring title in his sixth season.

– Jessica Camerato

LeBron James and Kevin Durant could conceivably go on dueling one another for both scoring titles and MVP awards for the next four years, but this particular season has a special series of circumstances that could lead to several other candidates with legitimate opportunities to compete to be this year’s top scorer.

Teaming up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland may lead to another incredibly efficient season for James in 2014-15, but the combination could also shave a couple points off his (per game) average. There will be plenty of nights where each of them score 20 or more and possibly even a few where all three top 30 points, but we should probably expect the natural playmaker in James to really look to take advantage of being surrounded by so many deadly scoring options.

Durant’s early absence could lead to Russell Westbrook remaining amongst the leaders for at least the first couple months of the season, and possibly even beyond if Coach Brooks and his superstar decide it is best to ease the reigning MVP back into the heavy lifting and responsibilities as he returns.

While Westbrook’s numbers would likely taper off as Durant eventually asserts himself back into the main scorer’s role, the door might ultimately be left completely open for a man that has been one of the league’s top scoring threats throughout his 11-year career.

Carmelo Anthony – especially this leaner and meaner version – may just be the league’s most complete offensive player. Save the outrage, as guys like Durant, James and even a returning Kobe Bryant remain in that discussion as well; but Anthony is every bit as deserving of the distinction as anyone else, as the 6’8 (now) 230 pound scorer literally has every shot in his tool box. Whether beyond the arc, pulling up from the mid-range or even on the block, Anthony has a move (or three) for any circumstance.

Insert that arsenal into the storied Triangle offense, and we only have to look back at the lineage of scorers (Michael Jordan and Bryant) to have an idea of how deadly Anthony could be this season. Although some of his teammates may be experiencing some difficulty growing more comfortable with the complexities of the offense, Anthony already looks comfortable finding the scoring pockets within the early formings of Coach Fisher’s version of the offensive set.

Anthony will have plenty of competition for the top scorer’s crown, but while others have circumstances that could lead to slightly diminished totals, he actually has the opportunity to maintain or even slightly exceed his normal productivity while doing so even more efficiently than usual.

– Jabari Davis

Kevin Durant has had a virtual monopoly on the NBA’s scoring title, winning it in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Carmelo Anthony snuck in and stole it from him in 2013 while LeBron James, surprisingly, has only won one scoring title.

Obviously, those three will enter any season as the favorites to end up on top, but if there is a dark horse amongst the players, it would have to be James Harden.

Durant is currently expected to be sidelined until December and once he returns—as we see all the time—it is going to take him an extended period of time to bust off the rust that accrues over the duration of his extended absence. It is difficult to imagine Durant returning to the court after spending upwards of eight weeks off of it and hitting his stride before the New Year. What that means is simple: there will be plenty of games in which he will play a handful of minutes and score sparingly, at least early. It will be difficult for him to average upwards of 28 points per game, at least as far as I see it.

Anthony has gone on record as saying that he does not foresee himself needing to be the ball-dominant scorer that he has been over the course of his career and that’s something that head coach Derek Fisher seems to agree with. The hope for the Knicks is that Anthony will become a more efficient scorer and get some easier baskets, but that is not the goal for him or his Knicks, so it is easy to foresee him sacrificing shots and looks—especially since the Knicks know from last season that they need two other guys scoring the ball to help them win.

James is the quintessential team player and has been his entire career. Winning comes before all else, which is why he doesn’t score as much as he could.

So now, I turn to Harden.

Harden has emerged as one of the league’s top scorers over the past few years and now, as the Houston Rockets enter the 2014-15 season with a team that lacks the talent of last year’s cast, Harden is going to need to score more for them to replicate last season’s success. Although Trevor Ariza will make meaningful contributions to the team, the losses of Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik will hurt.

Specifically as it relates to Parsons, the Rockets have lost a player who not only scored 16.6 points per game for them, but one who was able to find his own shot and alleviate some of the scoring burden from Harden.

Without Lin, the Rockets will hope that one of their young reserves—perhaps Isaiah Canaan—can emerge as a reliable ball handler, but the likely result is that Harden will end up with the ball in his hands even more, which is somewhat difficult to imagine, but likely, nonetheless.

Jason Terry is an intriguing addition to the Rockets, mainly because the hope is that he, even at 37 years old, can give the Rockets something off of the bench. Perhaps he can, but after playing just 35 games all of last season, Terry is a major question mark.

At the end of the day, for the Rockets, it boils down to Harden and Dwight Howard having a weaker supporting cast than last year’s version and them hoping to stay competitive in the increasingly tough Western Conference.

In the end, I would not be surprised to see Harden sneak in and walk away with the 2014-15 scoring title.

– Moke Hamilton

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