Stephen Curry’s MVP Case is Significantly Bolstered by a Key Stat He Holds Over the Competition
The Golden State Warriors are partying like it’s 2015. At 29-7, the Warriors sit atop the NBA standings just days into the new year. And the biggest reason why is the ageless Stephen Curry.
The 33-year-old sharpshooter is the favorite to win his third MVP award later this year. It’s hard to argue against him, given his incredible season mixed with Golden State’s superb record. But in case Curry needed any more argument as to why he’s the MVP, the answer lies in the Warriors’ performance with him on the court versus on the bench.
Stephen Curry is having an MVP-caliber season
Curry’s 2021-22 season is highlighted by his record-setting 2,974th 3-pointer on December 14, passing Ray Allen as the league’s all-time leader. But Steph’s campaign has been far more impressive than a single three against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
In his 13th season, Curry is averaging 27.2 points on 42.7% shooting. He’s hitting a league-leading 5.3 triples out of a career-high 13.4 attempts, a 39.3% clip. He’s also pulling in an average of 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Even though the bulk of Curry’s offense comes from threes, he’s a stronger, more well-rounded player than the one who won back-to-back MVPs in 2015 and 2016. He’s even an improved defender, as Draymond Green told The Athletic last spring.
“I think that if you watched him play this year, the stuff that he has [done] on that side of the ball has been incredible,” Green said. “Teams will try to post him up, and he’s too f****** strong now. They can’t post him up anymore. He’s gotten much quicker laterally. And most importantly, he doesn’t reach on every play anymore. So his growth on that side of the ball [is significant]. But because he’s been so good offensively, no one talks about it.”
Curry is tremedously valuable to the Golden State Warriors
It’s safe to say the 29-7 Warriors are for real. Golden State has an impressive collection of role players like Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole at its disposal. Soon, Klay Thompson will rejoin the mix.
But one look at Curry’s plus-minus numbers will reveal how ultimately, Golden State’s success boils down to the Baby-Faced Assassin.
Through 34 games, Curry has a +379 plus-minus, an average of +11.2 per game. Only Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is close at +326, as Steph is 99 points ahead of third-place, Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill. However, Gobert is one of six Jazz players in the top 15, which also includes multiple Bucks and Phoenix Suns. However, Curry is the only Warrior in the top 15.
Along those lines, Golden State’s offensive rating drops by 10 points when Curry is off the court, while its defensive rating increases (in the wrong direction) by over four points. For context, Gary Payton II and Kevon Looney are the only other Warriors who add more than two points to the offensive rating when they’re on the court versus off of it. But both see fewer than 20 minutes of action a night.
Does Stephen Curry already have the MVP locked up?
The NBA season is creeping up to its halfway point, which means there’s a lot of basketball still to be played. That being said, it’s hard to remove Curry from the top of the MVP ladder.
As Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and former teammate Kevin Durant all make their respective claims for the award, Curry has the advantage of being the best player on the league’s best team. Out of the 66 MVP winners since 1956, 42 played on the team with the best regular-season record. Curry happens to be responsible for two of those.
On top of things, Steph can still end up leading the league in scoring to further boost his resume. Durant, LeBron James, Trae Young, and Antetokounmpo are all ahead of him. But considering Curry is actually shooting close to five points lower than his career average, it’s possible we could see his point total overtake his competitors in the second half.
Steph’s individual excellence, along with the Warriors’ team success, make him the comfortable frontrunner for MVP. And his league-best plus-minus simply confirms it.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.