Make No Mistake: Stephen Curry Was the Correct NBA MVP Choice
After one of the most heavily debated MVP races in recent memory, it was announced today that Stephen Curry is the winner of the award for the 2014-15 NBA season, earning 100 of a possible 130 first-place votes and a total of 1,198 points. James Harden (25 first-place votes, 936 points), LeBron James (5 first-place votes, 552 points), Russell Westbrook (352 points), Anthony Davis (203 points), and Chris Paul (124 points) all had compelling cases (and we've been making them all season), but Curry ultimately topped them all.
Even if you subscribe to one of the other players' camps and liked your candidate a little more, it's hard to deny that Curry had a special season and is a deserving winner.
For starters, Curry's name was all over the NBA leaderboards.
|Points per game||23.8||6th|
|Assist per game||7.7||6th|
|Steals per game||2.0||4th|
|Free throw %||91.4%||1st|
|Effective Field Goal %||59.4%||2nd|
|True Shooting %||63.8%||4th|
|Player Efficiency Rating||28.0||3rd|
|Offensive Win Shares||11.5||3rd|
|Win Shares per 48 Minutes||.288||1st|
|Offensive Box Plus/Minus||9.6||1st|
|Value Over Replacement Player||7.9||1st|
With a shooting split of 48.7% from the field, 44.3% from long range, and 91.4% from the free throw line, Curry came close to putting up one of the most impressive 50/40/90 seasons of all time. He set the NBA record from three-pointers made this year (286), while making a whopping 3.6 of his 8.1 attempted per game. That kind of long range accuracy put him near the top of the pile in both Effective Field Goal Percentage (weighted twos and threes) and True Shooting Percentage (weighted two, threes, and free throws), places more often dominated by bigs that take all their shots at the rim.
And say what you want about all-encompassing, one-number statistics as a means for measuring a player's greatness, but Curry finishing first in areas like Win Shares per 48 Minutes and Value Over Replacement Player is far from an empty feat. At .288, Curry's 2014-15 rate of Win Shares per 48 Minutes places him 17th all-time and everyone ahead of him on that list not named Chris Paul has an MVP trophy on their mantle (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and Kevin Durant).
Adding to the list of Curry's accomplishments in advanced stats this season, he was also this year's leader in nERD -- the closest thing we here at numberFire have to an MVP rating -- at 20.5. nERD measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on his efficiency, and the final number is meant to estimate how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would finish an 82-game regular season with the player in question as one of its starters.
James Harden's candidacy for MVP this season was often backed by how he managed to drag a depleted Rockets squad to an overachieving 56-26 record, but Steph's 20.5 nERD (compared to Harden's 19.1) suggests Curry's contributions would be worth even more to a league-average team than Harden's. Either would've deserved the award, fine, but you can't say Curry didn't deserve it because his teammates were better.
Let's face it, Harden's accomplishments with the Rockets were incredible, but Curry was the lead guy on one of the best teams in NBA history. This year's Warriors were one of only five teams ever to win 67 games and have an average margin of victory of at least 10.1, a point differential that was largely influenced by the average 16.9 points per game the Warriors outscored opponents by while Steph was on the court this season, compared to the 3.3 they were outscored by themselves when he was off. That's Jordan-level MVP territory (his Bulls make up three of the four teams on the list) and that should be properly appreciated.
Even if you forget the numbers -- an odd thing to say around these parts, but nonetheless -- Stephen Curry is a great MVP winner because he's one of the most interesting and fun anomalies the sport has seen in a long time. Since the introduction of the three-point line, volume shooters like Curry have mostly been one-dimensional role players whose sole job was to get open and nail timely threes. Curry, on the other hand, has combined being potentially one of the greatest shooters of all time with so many other deadly weapons that he's become practically unguardable.
If you don't respect his range and sag off of him, he'll knock down almost anything within 35 feet. If you pressure him too much up top, he can blow by you and get to the rim in a flash. If you double team him, he'll find an open man and get one of the other many other weapons on Golden State going. If you try to go at him on offense and don't give him the respect that his improvements on the defensive end this year have earned him, he'll pick your pocket and get the Warriors going in transition.
All those things combined with a sexy stat line helped Curry become the first MVP the Warriors have had since the team was in Philadelphia and Wilt Chamberlain won the honor in 1960. After a historic season for the Golden State Warriors and a MVP-winning campaign by Stephen Curry, the only thing the team has left to write next to their names in the NBA history books is the franchise's first title since 1974-75. Our algorithms currently have them at a whopping 49.41% to do so (oh so close to being favorites over the entire field) and that number is growing by the day. If the Warriors do go on to win the title, hindsight will likely make the fact that we ever considered anyone other than Curry for this year's award seem more ridiculous than this shot:
Or this one:
Or...well, you get the point.