Why the argument against Steph Curry winning MVP is incorrect

Courtesy of Ezra Shaw-Getty Images

There was a lot of Steph Curry slander last season after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury and the Warriors finished with the worst record in the league at a record of 15–50. Many NBA fans wrote Curry off last year and at the beginning of the season this year. All of those fans seemingly forgot just how good he truly is and that he is a transcendent talent that has revolutionized the game of basketball forever. It was said repeatedly that this was the season where Curry was going to get ‘exposed’ since he did not have multiple all-stars around him. Some even went as far as to say that he is a system player that cannot win on his own.

Curry responded to all of that criticism by lighting the league on fire and putting up monster numbers that helped lead the Warriors to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. This leads me to the whole sake of this article and that is that I have seen far too many people come up with the same lazy argument over and over again as to why Curry shouldn’t win MVP this year and I cannot listen to it anymore. The argument is that the Warriors are an 8th seed and therefore he was not valuable enough to win more games in order to qualify for such a prestigious award such as the MVP. I am a long time NBA fan and know better than anyone that a crucial component to a players MVP case is that the team in which they play on has great success since it is an indicator of what they themselves accomplished individually and what they were able to do for their team. Although this is the case, here are some facts that will persuade those same people and their rather weak argument:

The Warriors went 2–7 in games where Curry did not play and 37–26 in games that he did. If you took the win percentage of the games that he was on the court for the team would be right around .587. Just by doing some simple math we can estimate that had he played in those games the Warriors would have won on average anywhere from 5 to 6 of those 9 games in all likelihood. This of course would have led to a record of either 42–30 or 43–29 depending on whether they managed to win 5 or 6 of those games like expected. Both records would have landed the Warriors as the 5th seed in the Western Conference. This would have made for a very different narrative on the team’s success helping his case significantly.

If this doesn’t show you just how valuable Curry was to his team and their success besides his actual numbers which by the way were 32.0 points, 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. Those 32 points per game led the NBA and resulted in Steph’s second NBA Scoring Title of his career, the last time of course being when he won unanimous MVP in 2015–16 after averaging 30.1 points per game. With this, Curry joined Michael Jordan as the only player 33 years or older to accomplish such a feat. Those stats are not the only impressive numbers that he put up this year though. In fact, he had many more, such as 38 games with 30 points or more, 337 threes, seven 10 three games, 5.3 threes per game. He even became the Warriors all-time leading scorer on top of all this, just as a little bonus to everything else he accomplished this year.

If you still do not believe that he should win MVP, how about the fact that the Warriors at one point in the season had the 13th best offense in the league when Steph played. That is relatively mediocre and certainly not an extremely impressive number that grabs one’s attention. It sounds like a kind of weak argument when you look at just that alone since that is relatively average itself and does not indicate just how much of an impact Curry has had on his team this season. How about this one though, when he is off court on the other hand, the team was ranked the 7th worst offense… in NBA history. Not this season alone, but rather since offensive efficiency was tracked.

How about the eye test. Now before I go further, I understand that this is a category that can be subject to the awfulness that is bias. I am a huge stat guy for that reason because stats don’t lie, but they also do not tell the full story. There has to be a fine balance between the two when determining which player is most worthy of the title Most Valuable Player. Something that separates Curry from other star NBA players throughout the league other than the mesmerizing abilities he has on the basketball court that makes him one of a kind is the game-plan that all of the other 29 teams have to neutralize him and prevent him from inevitably dropping a 30 piece on them.

Courtesy of Ethan Strauss The Athletic
Courtesy of Randy Vasquez Bay Area News Group

He is one of the few guys that is face guarded every single second he is on the court. Every team that plays the Warriors has one guard stick with him like glue all game long. But it does not stop there. Curry is constantly doubled, tripled and even so much as quadruple teamed when the ball ends up in his hands, which seems unreal, but is a reality of playing against the likes of the greatest shooter the game has ever seen. While many of the top players will have the best defender on the opposing team guard them for 48 minutes each night, no player even comes close to Curry in this regard. He truly is in a league of his own when it comes to the fear he strikes in opposing teams. The fact that he not only managed to average 20+ points a game with this strategy employed against him is crazy as it is, and yet he averaged a whopping 32 points per game leading the entire NBA.

While there are many extremely worthy MVP candidates like always this season, such as Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, James Harden and many others, no single player did more for their team than Curry. He had less resources to work with than any of those players mentioned who all had significantly better supporting casts. Now, this is not said to disrespect guys like Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins who had solid seasons, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but it is more so to state that those two do not space out the floor and allow open looks like Klay Thompson would if he was healthy this season. Jokic has Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and had Jamal Murray before his ACL injury. Embiid has Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry. Damian Lillard has CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Jusuf Nurkic. James Harden of course has significantly more help since he has Curry’s former teammate Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris. You get the point, the list goes on and on.

Although I am not an active member of the committee with the prestigious honor of voting for MVP, I feel that I have offered some good insight as to why Curry is the most deserving player of this year’s MVP award, but do not just take my word for it. Take the words of the players who lace it up against Curry and experience his greatness firsthand in ways that you and I cannot. While the fans can go back and forth every single hour of the day on Twitter or Instagram giving their takes on who should be the winner of the award, the players know better than just about anyone.

LeBron James and Ja Morant are two of the most recent players whose names were in the news cycle for giving Curry high praise for his season and title of MVP. Morant took his opinion on the matter to Twitter following the Memphis Grizzlies loss to the Warriors on Sunday afternoon. LeBron on the other hand mentioned it while doing a postgame presser following the Los Angeles Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans while previewing the play-in game matchup against the Curry led Warriors. “We’re playing, in my opinion, the MVP of this year in Steph,” said James. I do not know about you, but if it were between me trusting a player and their insight of what takes place on the court or an outsider reporting on the game or viewing it through a different lens, I would put my faith in the player every single time because they experience the game in ways nobody else quite can.

At the end of the day, when it comes to something like a very tightly knit MVP race between some of the best talents in the league, there will always be many arguments as to why one player deserves it over the others. This year is no exception to that, but what is an exception is the historical season that the man that goes by the name of Wardell Stephen Curry has had. The season that Curry managed to put together this 2020–21 season embodies what a Most Valuable Player is and should be. While there are many great candidates for the award, it is clear as day to me that Steph Curry should be taking home his third MVP award of what has been an accolade full career. He has my vote and he should have yours too.

Sports Journalist at Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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