There is still a long way to go in the 2021-22 NBA season, but Steph Curry has started hot to lead the MVP race after four weeks.
Steph Curry entered the NBA with doubters draped all over him.
One writer at Bleacher Report said Curry “probably is never going to end up being a star in the league because of a lack of explosiveness” when he was drafted in 2009.
When he sprained his ankle multiple times in 2010-11 and then again in 2012 prompting a second surgery, people laughed at the Golden State Warriors for putting their faith in a 23-year-old with glass ankle by trading away Monta Ellis and Andrew Bogut.
Having averaged over 20 points per game in the nine seasons since then, made seven All-Star teams and shot over 40% every year (excluding his five-game 2019-20 season) while becoming arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history, Curry is still prone to claims of being “washed” the second he looks to be slowing down. It happened last year before he averaged a career-high 32 points per game. It happened again this year before his 28.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game led the Warriors to the best record in the NBA at 11-2.
But, as usual, Curry is back to cooking defences and knocking down shots.
When Curry opened the season with 21 points on 5-21 shooting the usual narrative started.
Whether those people believed it at the time or not, his 45 points on 16-25 shooting quickly killed the idea that Curry isn’t still one of the best players in the NBA.
He dropped 36 points on the Memphis Grizzlies and 50 points on the Atlanta Hawks. His nine made threes on 17 attempts on his way to 40 points against the Chicago Bulls was the 36th time he’s hit 9+ in again in his career.
Games with 9+ threes in NBA history:
36 — Steph Curry
9 — James Harden, Damian Lillard
7 — Klay Thompson pic.twitter.com/YzMjCwZbch
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 13, 2021
He’s not playing that well either.
Curry’s current 38.7% from three-point land is the worst mark of his career (again, excluding his five-game 2019-20 season) but still 4.2% ABOVE the current NBA average.
Nonetheless, he’s fourth in win shares, fifth in win shares per 48 minutes, second in offensive box plus-minus, fourth in box plus-minus, fourth in value over replacement, and the current $3.60 favourite to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award this season.
Assessing The MVP Race
It’s very early days in the MVP race.
Luka Doncic led the way this time last season at $5 before finishing up at 6th on the ballot. The eventual 2020-21 NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, sat on the second line of betting at $6.50 and cruised to 1st by almost 400 points by the end of the regular season.
Still, Curry is a worthy favourite as we enter the fourth week of the season.
First of all, he has the numbers.
It’s the first thing voters look for in their MVP and Curry’s stack up against the other contenders.
Second, the record.
MVP’s are almost always a top-three seed in their conference. Michael Jordan finished his 1998 MVP season as a 3rd seed while Nikola Jokic did the same last season. The only player to fall outside of the top three seeds and win the MVP is Russell Westbrook, and he needed to average a tripe-double to do it.
As it stands, only Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant play on teams currently occupying a top-three seed in their conference. If the Warriors can hold on to 1st in the West, he is going to receive a big boost in voting.
Third, the narrative.
He’s the only player to be voted the unanimous MVP of the league but has struggled to stay on the court over the last three NBA seasons. His Warriors were the worst team when playing without him during the 2019-20 season and now they’re the best in the league with him fit and firing. His importance has always been undeniable, and right now, he has the numbers and the record to go with it. Voter fatigue can be a factor. LeBron James would have more than four MVP awards if it wasn’t. But five players have lifted the Maurice Podoloff Trophy since Curry last won it. The fatigue is gone and he’s a genuine chance at picking it up for the third time in his illustrious career.
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