With one game left in the regular season, the NBA will soon begin the voting for their end of season awards. The Golden State Warriors would have had several players with cases for major NBA awards, but ill-timed injuries have derailed their seasons and made the chances of them winning unlikely. That’s the case for Stephen Curry who, according to the latest DraftKings odds, has the 11th best odds (+60,000) to win MVP.
Going back several months ago, the Warriors beat the Phoenix Suns on Christmas day and owned the league’s best record at 27-6. Stephen Curry was the team’s best player and was coming off a record-breaking performance where he became the all-time leader in career made threes.
Unfortunately, injuries disrupted Golden State’s continuity and Curry was forced into a more flexible role with the team – doing whatever the Warriors needed from him as they filled in the missing gaps in their roster. Some nights, Curry had his usual scoring mentality. Other nights, he focused more on the playmaking side by setting up others to get the offense flowing. The case for him as MVP was still going strong, but a foot injury suffered on March 16th stopped it right in its tracks as he was forced to miss the rest of the regular season.
Despite the sacrifices, Curry still averaged 25.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game this season. He shot 43.7% from the field and 38% from three on 11.7 attempts per game. His stats may be slightly down from his career averages, but that says more about Curry’s peak seasons throughout his career than him having a “down season”.
More important than his individual stats, Curry’s value to his team is undeniable. He is the engine that makes everything go in the Warriors’ offense. As soon as he steps onto the court, Curry has the opposing defense’s full attention. Whether on ball or off ball, Curry’s presence and constant movement regularly forces double teams in his direction. This opens up a plethora of open shots for his teammates to take advantage of and has been the foundation of Golden State’s offense for years.
Prior to Curry’s injury, the Warriors held the 2nd seed in the West and trailed only the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the NBA. The team was 2nd in the league in net rating and 10th in offensive rating including top 3 in categories like AST%, EFG%, and TS%. During this span, the Warriors were 47-22.
After Curry’s injury, the team was in freefall going 1-6 in their first 7 games without him. During this 7-game span, the Warriors were 29th in offensive rating, 16th in AST%, and 28th in both EFG% and TS%.
The dramatic drop-off from their seasonal norm shows how valuable Curry is to the Warriors. Golden State’s offense looked lost without their engine. The team had to figure out completely new ways to manufacture shots, and even then, these shots were nowhere near as efficient as they were with Curry in the game.
Will Curry win MVP for the 3rd time in his career this season? Let’s just say his chances are as good as the Lakers’ chances of making the playoffs this season. It doesn’t help that he missed a chunk of games, and the general fatigue from his previous MVPs would have made people less likely to vote for him. Oh, and there’s also these guys named Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo that are having pretty good seasons as well. However, considering the Warriors’ record when Curry was healthy, his seasonal stats, his general impact on the team, and how they look without him on the floor, the argument is there to be made.
Regardless, Golden State has bigger aspirations than regular season awards. Even if Curry doesn’t win MVP, look for him to make up for it this postseason as he chases more significant accolades — 4-Time NBA Champion and Finals MVP.