NBA MVP Watch: Will Anyone Catch Stephen Curry?
With a third of the season remaining, the most intriguing topic in the NBA is whether or not the Golden State Warriors will trump the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls 72-wins record. A big part of why that has become a real possibility is because of other-worldly Stephen Curry, who has all but secured his back-to-back MVP award.
Dominating like an all-time great in progress, Curry has been one of the league leaders in several categories since Day 1 -- scoring, shooting, and even defense with his thieving ways. He is on his way to joining the elusive 50/40/90 club at his current pace.
Proving that he is no fluke, Curry has kept up his insane ways consistently throughout the season. He is not showing any signs of slowing down and sits comfortably in first place in nERD.
For those unfamiliar, nERD is our in-house metric that measures a player's contributions throughout the course of a season based on their efficiency. Comparable to Win Shares, this ranking gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters. The rating will represent a player's total contribution during an 82-game season, not just the games played so far this year.
Let's see who else is turning it up in the latest MVP Watch.
5. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
nERD Score: 14.9
Team Record: 40-15
It looked like LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were finding their form after a big win in OKC, but then they lost to the lowly Detroit Pistons in the comfort of their own home. In that game, James had his worst shooting performance of the season (28%) and matched a season-low of 12 points. Although the Cavaliers remain tops in the Eastern Conference standings, James will need to address his inefficient three-point shooting (22% in February) as he stays on pace to record his worst three-point shooting for a season.
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Score: 16.6
Team Record: 40-16
Just when we thought Russell Westbrook couldn't further impress us, he proves otherwise. In his first game back after capturing his second straight All-Star Game MVP award, Westbrook recorded a new career-high of 18 assists in a single game with only two turnovers (for you math nerds, that's a 9:1 assist-to-turnover ratio), then followed up that performance with an 11-assist game while committing only one turnover. Westbrook still ranks second in the league in total turnovers and turnovers per game, but recent performances suggest he may be improving in that department.
3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Score: 19.2
Team Record: 40-16
Kevin Durant has a lot to think about for his upcoming free agency, but for now, he is shooting out of his mind. For February averages, Durant is second in field goal attempts per game (21.9) which has resulted in his being second in scoring (31) and third in three-pointers made (3.6). If it weren't for some fellow in the Bay Area, Durant would arguably be the front-runner for the MVP. Despite Durant's unconscious play, the Thunder are experiencing an All-Star break hangover as they've lost two straight games, including a 23-point beat down by the Cavaliers.
2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
nERD Score: 19.5
Team Record: 47-9
It's been two full weeks since Kawhi Leonard has played in a game, but all signs point toward a speedy return from a calf ailment. Just before the season intermission, Leonard had a string of five games during which he averaged 24.2 points (20-plus in each game) on 57% shooting, with a hearty Usage Rate of 28.3%. The San Antonio Spurs are notorious for resting their prized players when the situation allows for it, so it wouldn't be a surprise if Leonard is kept in check from now until the start of the playoffs.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
nERD Score: 26.0
Team Record: 50-5
After an embarrassing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Golden State Warriors have bounced back and started yet another win streak. Although their recent wins weren't the prettiest, what remains oh-so-beautiful is Curry's game. In three games since the All-Star break, Curry is averaging 30 points (including 5 three-pointers), 7.3 assists, and 2.7 steals -- in other words: the usual. Ahead by only 3.5 games in the standings, Curry and the Warriors will look to continue their winning ways as they progress towards making history.