Despite an illustrious NBA career so far, one major award has eluded Stephen Curry; the Finals MVP. This has led to a ton of critics in the media who suggest that Curry just doesn’t show up in the key moments. Upon looking at the numbers, it becomes apparent that this is just another unsubstantiated media narrative. We analyse each of Curry’s 4 Finals appearances so far and suggest why he is strong value to take the award this year at $1.67.
2015 NBA Finals
Although Andre Iguodala won the NBA Finals MVP award, Curry was comfortably the best player on the Warriors in this series. He put up stellar averages of 26 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists, shooting 38.5% from deep.
Moreover, he was the clear focal point for the entire Cavs defence. Curry’s elite passing ability was on full display in this series, setting up countless 4-on-3 opportunities for Draymond Green.
Not only that, Aussie Matthew Dellavedova was literally sent to the hospital because his body couldn’t handle the physical toll of guarding Curry. His match-winning performance in game 5 was particularly impressive, dropping 37 points and taking Delly’s ankles with a mean crossover.
He had just one bad game in game 2 which likely cost him the Finals MVP, where he shot 5/23 from the field and 2/15 from 3. As predominantly a 3-point shooter, Curry’s high-variance game is subject to occasional nights like this.
2016 NBA Finals
Without a doubt, this series was Curry’s nadir during this excellent 5-year run for Golden State. He just wasn’t up to the standard of his unanimous MVP regular season and likely wouldn’t have won Finals MVP even if Golden State held on to win.
Curry shot just 40% from the field in this series and could only average 3.7 assists a night. That said, his poor performances in this series can largely be attributed to knee and ankle injuries.
After a relatively injury-free regular season, Curry was injured in the opening game of the playoffs and likely returned too soon. As a result, he just couldn’t physically perform at the same level of that incredible 73-9 regular season.
Compound this with Draymond Green’s suspension and injuries to Bogut and Iguodala and it just wasn’t Golden State’s year. While a lot of talk centres around LeBron’s play to end that series, the 2016 Cavaliers had nearly everything break right for them.
2017 NBA Finals
Although it didn’t receive all that much fanfare, the 2017 NBA Finals probably produced the best basketball of all the Golden State vs Cleveland series. The last 3 games were incredibly competitive but Golden State ultimately made enough clutch plays late.
Kevin Durant was absolutely outstanding all series, averaging over 35 points, 8 boards, and 5 assists per game. He outplayed LeBron for almost the entire series and was the clear best player on the court.
Lost in the shuffle was just how good of a series Stephen Curry had. He put up insane averages of 26.8 points, 8 boards, 9.4 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. This was despite the clear focus of the Cavs defence to stop him at all costs.
In most years, this would be easily enough to win the Finals MVP award. A truly other-worldly series from one of his teammates shouldn’t take away from Steph’s accomplishments here.
2018 NBA Finals
In addition to 2015, this was another year where Steph had a very solid shot at the Finals MVP award. He averaged a very respectable 27.5 points, 6.8 assists, 6 boards and 1.5 steals.
His 3-ball was also working very well, with 22 makes in 4 games for an average of 41.5%. As in 2015, what likely lost him the Finals MVP here was a relatively poor performance in one of the games.
Curry shot just 3/16 from the field in game 3, including a miserable 1/10 from deep. In contrast, Durant dropped 43 points to go along with 13 boards, 7 assists, and the game-winner. Despite largely outplaying him in 3 of the other 4 games, this game 3 was enough for the majority of voters to give Durant the award.
Stephen Curry called Finals MVP "a special award that everybody wants to get, including myself." Yet, Steph has supported Andre Iguodala (2015) and Kevin Durant (2017, 2018) for winning it. My piece on Steph's mindset https://t.co/uqPUeTarff
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) May 28, 2019
The primary reason why Curry is currently the $1.67 NBA Finals MVP favourite is his excellent recent form. After struggling somewhat to start these playoffs, he had one of the best Western Conference Finals in recent memory.
Without KD, he was able to orchestrate the offence and looked very similar to the man who won consecutive MVP’s in 2015 and 2016. He pulled off historic averages of 36.5 points, 8.3 boards, and 7.3 assists in a dominant sweep.
Steph Curry’s Western Conference Finals:
◽️ 36.5 PPG
◽️ 7.3 AST
◽️ 8.3 REB
◽️ 47.1 FG%
◽️ 42.5 3PT%
MVP form. pic.twitter.com/RYvAJZYKbj
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 21, 2019
Importantly, he also got things going from deep, shooting 42.5% from 3 on a ludicrous 15 attempts per game. As he’s shown throughout his career, these numbers are definitely sustainable for him. A long 9-day layoff should do Curry the world of good, allowing him to enter the Finals in peak condition.
Another reason why Curry is so heavily favoured this year is the injury cloud surrounding Kevin Durant. He’s already been ruled out for game 1 and isn’t likely to return until at least game 3.
Steve Kerr announced that Kevin Durant has officially been ruled out for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/3vKPOBCMvw
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 27, 2019
With Warriors in 6 at $3.44 the most likely projected outcome, missing 2 games would really hurt Durant’s chances. Given his excellent play in the previous 2 NBA Finals, this really opens the door for Curry.
Another interesting point to note over the last 2 Finals was that LeBron James rarely guarded KD. As he showed in the Eastern Conference Finals, Kawhi is more than capable of guarding elite offensive wings. Even if he does return earlier, KD likely won’t be at 100% and will have to deal with the league’s best perimeter defender.
Suggested Bet: Stephen Curry for Finals MVP at $1.67
Despite already having 3 rings to his name, I’m not sure there’s a more motivated man in this series than Curry. He has had to endure constant criticism for his failure to win the award so far, even though the numbers suggest he’s played very well.
The Kevin Durant injury is also a definite boon for his chances as his usage rate should remain sky high. While he’ll now face more defensive attention, he’s shown that he’s more than capable of thriving against even the most aggressive traps.
Ultimately, if Golden State ends up pulling this series out, I’d be very surprised if Curry isn’t the MVP. Currently at $1.67 to win the award, it appears to represent a better value play than Golden State to win outright at $1.33.