This year’s battle for the MVP award is the most tightly contested in recent memory, with a bevy of players having historic individual seasons. The most common set of MVP rankings likely consists of some permutation of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis in the top six. It’s difficult to create an order of this top six that everyone agrees with, but almost every reputable analyst has narrowed down their field to just two names: Harden and Curry.
With Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverly’s injury struggles, James Harden has almost single-handedly willed the Houston Rockets to their 56-26 record. He’s an offensive maestro and his ability to claw and slash his way into the lane does remarkable things for the team’s offense. But Stephen Curry should win this season’s MVP award.
A cursory glance at Stephen Curry’s per-game stats doesn’t reveal anything historic: 23.9 points, 7.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds. Impressive, but not historic. Curry’s shooting percentages, however, are much more enticing. He shoots 48.8% from the field, second among point guards (first is Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat), and 44.2% from the three-point line, an absolute anomaly considering the volume with which he shoots the ball. His hot three-point shooting this season, especially post All-Star break, not only contributes to the team’s offense in the form of points, but also forces defenders to step up on him the moment he crosses the half-court line. Curry’s shooting has an immeasurable impact in the way it can stretch out an opposing defense, and create opportunities for everyone through open lanes and easy looks around the basket.
Curry’s MVP resume is further bolstered by the success of his team. The Warriors finished the season 67-15, a full 11 games over the second-seeded team in the Western Conference. Only nine other teams have ever won 67 games in the history of the NBA, and only four other teams have won 39 games at home. Curry’s squad has a net rating of over 10, meaning they don’t just win games – they blow teams out. The success of the Warriors can almost be encompassed in a single figure: 32.8 minutes. That’s how many minutes per game Curry averages, which is a complete outlier when comparing him to the other leading scorers in the league (excluding fellow Warrior Klay Thompson). And it’s not because he isn’t deserving of more. This season, the Warriors have had the tendency to build massive leads early into the game, which means that Curry frequently sits out the final minutes. The Warriors’ dominance is a powerful reflection of how valuable Curry has been this season.
The MVP award is designated to the player who has the biggest impact on his team. It’s often argued that James Harden has a weaker supporting squad and therefore adds more value to his team than Curry does to a loaded Warriors squad. While players like Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green have thrived in their roles as secondary offensive options, Curry’s importance to his team’s offense cannot be understated. Curry makes the players around him better, while also scoring at an efficient rate, and that’s why he’s been this season’s most valuable player.
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