Steph Curry is Better Than Ever: How Curry is Evolving This Year's MVP Race; A Look Into the Stats.
Updated: Feb 19, 2021
By: Nathan Rogers
Stephen Curry is the greatest, most-accurate, and best-accomplished shooter of all time. The NBA has never seen anything like the 3-star recruit from Davidson ever before. He isn't just the best shooter of all time because of his pedigree. Although having the franchise leader in 3-pointers of the Charlotte Hornets — Dell Curry — as your dad helps with recognition and advice, Steph Curry grew his legacy through hard work, pure talent, perseverance and unsurpassed statistics.
Curry, in three different seasons, currently holds 3 of the top-4 best spots in the NBA's singe-season 3-point field-goal leaderboard. He holds the record for most 3s made in a singe season with 402.
Secondly, Steph also holds the record for most 3-pointers made in a single playoff run with 98 made 3s. Curry made 98 3s in 13 less games than Reggie Miller, who previously held the record.
Thirdly, Curry is 5th in the all-time 3-point shooting percentage list. The Warriors point guard sits behind his head coach, Steve Kerr (.4540%), his brother, Seth Curry (.4454%), Hubert Davis (.4409%), and Drazen Petrovich (.4374%). Steph Curry sits 5th on that list due to attempting more 3s (6,060) than everyone ahead of him combined (4,951).
Also, he just recently passed Reggie Miller to move to second on the all-time 3-point leaderboard, behind Ray Allen. Ray Allen, as of the 2020-2021 season, has played 8 more seasons than Curry. Also, Steph, in seasons when playing 50 or more games, has averaged 242.8 3's per season. For reference, Ray Allen averaged 159 3s per season, and Reggie Miller averaged 140 3s per season.
The margin between Curry and the rest of the pack is expanding by the night.
Steph Curry is also a 7-time All Star, 6-time All-NBA player, 2015-2016 Scoring Champion, 3-time champion, and a 2-time MVP.
Did you get that all out in one breathe?
Now that it is clear Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history — as well as one of the best players of all time — let's talk about this season (2020-2021).
This season, Curry deserves recognition as one of the top-MVP candidates.
According to StatMuse, Curry is currently averaging 30.1 points per game, 50% field goal percentage, 5.3 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game, with a 93.3% free throw percentage.
After a rusty start to the season, Curry has been one of the most — if not the most — consistent player in the NBA. He has 10 straight games with 25 or more points on 50% field goal percentage (5th best in NBA history). In the last 12 games, Curry is averaging 33.1 points per game, on 56 (FG%) - 51(3p%) - 95( FT%) with a +/- of +9.
Compared to his unanimous MVP season in 2016, Curry is averaging the same amount of points per game (30.1), approximately the same field goal percentage (50%), a slightly lower 3-point percentage, and a higher free-throw percentage (h/t Grant Liffmann).
Curry also has a higher true-shooting percentage than his MVP season, per StatMuse.
Curry is leading the NBA in field goals made (282), 3-pointers made (140, 34 more than second place), and points scored (844, 59 more than second place), per Basketball Reference.
Curry, through 28 games, is also shooting 48% on 3s farther than 30 ft, 47% on step-back 3s, and 43% on contested 3s. This is absolutely unheard of.
More reasons why Curry should be a current top-tier MVP candidate:
No Klay, No Problem!
After the Warriors' 3 championships in 4 years and Kevin Durant leaving in the summer of 2019, the team in the Golden State has suffered many injuries and setbacks. In the 2019-2020 season, the Warriors were the worst team in basketball. With Curry breaking his hand, Kevon Looney barely seeing the court, and even Klay Thompson tearing his ACL which sidelined him for the whole season, the Warriors haven't been a complete unit in a long time, to say the least. But, that doesn't stop Curry from being in the limelight this season. It is no secret that Curry, among other MVP-caliber candidates, has one of the worst supporting casts in the league, production wise. LeBron has Anthony Davis, KD has James Harden and Kyrie Irving, Nikola Jokic has Jamal Murray, and Curry has..... Wiggins? Hold on, hold on. Before you think I'm biased, I crunched some numbers and did some diggin'.
The Lakers' starting lineup, not including LeBron, averages 12.35 points per game.
The Nets' starting lineup, not including KD, averages 18.7 points per game.
The Nuggets' starting lineup, not including Jokic, averages 12.6 points per game.
The Warriors' starting lineup, not including Curry, averages 10 points per game.
When accounting for total points scored and assists, Curry is responsible for a jarring 40% of the Warriors' points through 29 games (h/t Ben Strawn).
This table, via Basketball Reference, highlights the players' usage percentage as well as VORP.
VORP, or valued over replacement player, measures the difference between a players' impact on the team verses what a hypothetical "replacement player" would contribute.
Shown on the table below, Curry is top-5 in usage percentage, while earning a VORP of 2.4, tied for second most in the NBA.
Even in a season when he has no "Robin" to his "Batman", any 3 of his big men, and being double-teamed and triple-teamed, he is still putting up MVP-worthy stats. It is unbelievably incredible. No other player in the NBA, this season, has experienced what Curry has.
Many people, including betting odds, have LeBron as the favorite to win the MVP.
LeBron is a great, great player. Don't get it twisted. LeBron is the best player of this generation; no doubt. But, is he more valuable than Stephen Curry through this season? Let's investigate.
First, it is necessary to define what MVP really means. It's not who the media is paying the most attention to, or who has the most highlights on SportsCenter top 10, or even who is the best player. You heard me, the MVP does not reflect the best player in the league. The MVP reflects who is the most valuable and important player in the league. Albeit most of the time, it does go to the best player. But, my point is that it does not have to go to the best player. That is not the one-and-only criteria. Thus, the fact that LeBron is the best player of our generation means absolutely nothing. Psst, look at the NFL this year. Is Aaron Rodgers the best player in the NFL? No.
The MVP — in my eyes — is the one player in the league that possesses the greatest ability to transform, elevate, and carry a team.
Questions that should be asked to decide the MVP: How much does said player benefit the team? Where would that team be without said player? What are his season statistics compared to others? Was his season historical, memorable?
This is more of a wish list than reality, as the MVP award has been washed in recent years. It is usually the best player on the best team, but we can only hope that a day where the actual most valuable player gets the award comes soon.
Back to LeBron.
What the box score tells you:
LeBron is averaging 25.7 PPG, 50% FG, 8 rebounds, 7.9 assists
Curry is averaging 30.0 PPG, 50% FG, 5.3 rebounds, 6 assists
What the box score doesn't tell you:
LeBron plays on the reigning-championship team and with one of the most stacked lineups in the NBA right now. Anthony Davis (although he is out for a couple weeks), Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Mark Gasol, and Markieff Morris.
Curry plays on the reigning-disaster team that finished with a mere 15 wins in 82 games. He doesn't have Klay, has played 2 weeks without a big man, Draymond is in and out of the lineup, and Wiggins —the second-leading scorer — only gives the team about 18 points a night. Curry once dropped 57 points and the Warriors lost. That should tell you everything about Curry's situation.
LeBron gets praised for his precise, wonderful passing. While this claim is somewhat justified — as he makes terrific passes night in and night out — he's also been a liability in the turnover game.
LeBron currently has a 14.8 turnover percentage. That ranks 158th out of 194 eligible players. LeBron has a higher turnover percentage than 80% of the league, per Basketball Reference.
For comparison, Curry has a 12.4 turnover percentage. That ranks 118 out of 194 eligible players. Curry has a higher turnover percentage than 60% of the league.
Also, LeBron ranks 3rd in the whole league in bad passes with 63. He also ranks 10th in lost-ball turnovers with 25.
Curry ranks only top ten in one of those categories.
Curry also ranks 8th in true shooting percentage. LeBron ranks 60th.
Curry, measured in points scored, is responsible for 26.87% of all Warriors points through 29 games. LeBron, in the same stat, accounts for only 22% of all Lakers points.
So, what's the catch?
Curry has a worst supporting cast, almost identical box score stats, turns the ball over 20% less, puts up astronomically better shooting stats, and is responsible for around 4% more of his teams' points.
We're only in February and we have about 3 more months until the NBA regular season is over, so crowning a true, set-in-stone MVP is incredibly premature. However, comparing candidates throughout the journey, as well as providing an early case for a top candidate, is necessary in deciding which hands grasps the MVP trophy down the line.