‘I got him on the outside, like 11 or 12’.
The ridiculous takes on Stephen Curry this summer were seemingly endless. So here’s something much more plausible.
Steph Curry will be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the 2017-18 season.
A bold prediction for a Golden State Warriors blog, I know. But the planets are aligning for Steph to join the hallowed company of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Moses Malone in hoisting that MVP trophy for a third time.
Behind the humility lies a truth rarely acknowledged - Steph Curry is driven by a desire for greatness. Look at that list and tell me he doesn’t want it.
Only Lebron James, Wilt Chamberlain (both on 4 MVPs), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell (on 5 MVPs), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (with an incredible 6 MVPs) hold more.
That is a list of basketball royalty right there. And Steph deserves to be right there.
The center of gravity
Steve Kerr recently set out in detail how Steph is the greatest offensive force the league has ever seen. Delving into Kerr’s comments gives us an outline of how this is going to go down.
Firstly he rightly sets out Curry’s role as the fulcrum of the offense, the sun around which all the planets revolve. Last year Steph took a step back for the first few months to integrate Kevin Durant. This meant it took a while to get into rhythm.
Indeed it wasn’t until the infamous toaster run that he really got going. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Curry was on a tear. Durant may have been a deserving Finals MVP, but if there was a Playoffs MVP, Steph would have won it.
Look at these stats and weep - 28.1 points, 6.7 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 2 steals per game on 48.4% from the field, around 42% from three point range, 90% from the line.
In most areas of life arrogance is not an attractive quality. However on the basketball court if you’re going to dominate, it’s got to be part of the picture. And as Kerr said, Curry has, “This incredible package of skill, arrogance and humility. It's a weird combination and the result is this powerful force that drives our entire organization.”
How does this show out? Well, in crushing the haterz usually. Think back to all the slander in the 2015 offseason. What happened next?
73 wins and Mr Unanimous, that’s what. Last year all the takes about the 2016 Finals were repudiated by the best playoff record of all time.
So haterz - get ready to bake a cake with all your terrible Steph Curry takes. You’re going to be eating them for a long time.
Most importantly, preseason Steph Curry looked like… well, Steph Curry. But Steph Curry when he’s destroying teams. In Shanghai, he torched the Wolves for 40.
40 points in 3 quarters of work for Steph Curry in Shanghai. #NBAChinaGames pic.twitter.com/4WOHbrWEyL— NBA (@NBA) October 8, 2017
Back home against Sacramento, he put up 18 points in 19 minutes and didn’t even play the second half. Usually Kerr at least lets him play the third quarter before running out the garbage time lineups. Is this going to be the Warriors new way of humiliating teams this year?
An underrated part of the difference between this year and last year is the summer he had.
Barring a few incidents with cigars Steph had a good mixture of rest, relaxation, and time preparing in the gym. In 2016 he was working his way back from the injuries he suffered in the playoffs so did not have the opportunity to work on his game in the same way.
A rested, prepared Steph Curry, operating at his peak should be sniffing the 50-40-90 club for a second time.
Just by being in rhythm all year and getting his three point percentage back to his career mark of .438% — after his worst three point shooting regular season in 2016/17— will put him back into range.
As Steph himself said to Anthony Slater of the Athletic, he’s as ready as he’s ever been.
Using all that experience to my advantage, the work you put in off the court in the summertime to get yourself ready. I don't know exactly where the peak is, but I do think I'm the best version of myself to date.
In truth the Warriors probably need to have another awesome season for Steph to be in the MVP conversation.
But the Warriors look as comfortable, and deep, as ever. They absolutely could win 70, even with increased resting for the main guys. After all, last year they won 67 while integrating Durant and having a crazy travel schedule. A more spaced out regular season will help them.
And when Steph plays at his peak, the Warriors win. A lot.
What about the voters?
Even with fewer wins, voter fatigue is not likely a problem this year. Voters often make seemingly mind-boggling choices like (stick to sports!) Derrick Rose winning the 2011 MVP.
That was basically because the then-reigning two-time MVP Lebron James formed the Miami superteam and he had a year’s punishment before winning two more MVPs. Sound familiar?
All the player movement around the league means that last year’s main contenders - Russell Westbrook and James Harden - are likely to suffer from lower usage rates and therefore lower counting stats.
Over in the East, LeBron will likely coast through the regular season again, and Giannis Antetokuonmpo will likely not win enough games.
Kawhi Leonard, who was many people’s smart pick for MVP last year, enters the season coming off an injury. The San Antonio Spurs can never be discounted, but they did have a weird summer and the roster on paper does not look as good. He’s obviously the main competition but fewer wins and a slower start may hurt him.
Of course, the most Spurs/Gregg Popovich thing to do would be to hold him out all year and tank for the number one pick in the last year before the lottery odds are changed…
Yet the biggest threat to Curry may come from his own teammate, Kevin Durant.
There’s no doubt Durant is one of the top three players in the league. He’s emerged in the public consciousness as a two-way beast, as well as one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league.
He also benefits from playing with a point guard whose very presence on the court distorts defenses to breaking point...
But Kerr has got this right: The Warriors still revolve around Curry. And if they play as we all know they are capable of, then the path is clear for Curry to regain his throne as the league’s reigning MVP.