Could Stephen Curry win MVP + MIP in the same season?
After 65+ games of this NBA season, we’re actually far past the point of return: CoachUp’s Stephen Curry is the undeniable, unstoppable NBA MVP. In fact, there’s a fair chance that Curry becomes the first player in league history to win the award unanimously -- not even Michael Jordan or LeBron James managed that feat. As of publishing on March 14th, 2016, the Golden State Warriors are 59-6, dangerously pacing ahead of the Chicago Bulls’ historic 72-10 record, striving for the all-important home court advantage over the San Antonio Spurs. At the center of it all, of course, is Curry -- his meteoric rise from first-time MVP to historical world-beater happened nearly overnight.
His quick-trigger release and penchant for pulling up wherever he pleases has revolutionized the modern day NBA. He’s chasing 400 three-pointers and is the best player on one of the best teams in league history. And now, with another NBA Championship on the line, there is just one major question left to ask:
Is Stephen Curry the NBA’s Most Improved Player too?
Although there are plenty of worthy candidates, like Boston’s Isaiah Thomas or Portland’s C.J. McCollum, Curry’s inclusion in the conversation is no longer an opinion, he may very well be the front-runner for the honors. Now, you might be wondering: how in the world does one improve on an MVP season?
It’s simple: all you have to do is raise your averages in almost every statistical category while also ascending to your throne as the best shooter in NBA history. Easy, right? Let’s break it down:
Curry, currently, is building tremendously on his MVP campaign by upping his 2014-2015 averages by about 7 PPG on 51% shooting in only an extra minute per game. Which might not seem like much at first glance, but imagine that: in just 60 extra seconds, Curry is tacking on the equivalent of three possessions while shooting even better than last year.
Yes, his assists have decreased by 1.2 per game, but his 6.5 APG ranks 10th in the NBA and his teammate, Draymond Green (who deserves massive MIP consideration as well) tosses 7.6 every 34 minutes himself. The next highest pair of teammates are Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets and their respective 5.6 and 5.3 averages rank them 22nd and 23rd league-wide. Not only does this mean that the Curry-Green playmaking combination is lethal, but it implies that the Warriors are better off with Curry shooting rather than a focus on distribution.
Furthermore, it’s remarkable that Curry, who can command double teams at halfcourt at times, and his turnover averages have ballooned a whole 0.2%. Yes, the potentially unanimous MVP that entire game plans are formulated around is taking better care of the basketball than ever. While others, in particular Green and McCollum, have elevated their statistics to new personal territories (McCollum’s jump from 6.8 to 20.7 PPG is nearly unheard of), but Curry has taken his legendary shooting game into the next ozone layer.
In case you’ve missed it somehow, Curry has broken his own NBA record for Made Three-Pointers in a Season twice now. In 2012-2013, fresh off his 4 year, $44 million contract extension (that is now the NBA’s best contract by far), Curry fired his was to a league record 272 three-pointers. Defeating Ray Allen, the former majority choice for best shooter of All-Time, by 3 was nice, but in 2014-2015, he added an extra 14 just for good measure. Then, of course, this year happened.
Curry, who has broken 300 three-pointers made for the first time in league history, did it with an astonishing 20 games left to play. As of now, we’d wager that Curry is simply taking an incredible achievement and creating something certifiably unbreakable. At his pace, would we be crazy to expect 400 next year? What about this year? Last summer, we wrote this blurb about Curry’s out-of-this-world pace:
“Even if Stephen only averaged a modest 227 three-pointers a year for the next ten years, his career average per season -- excluding the 2011 season that was shortened by the lockout and ankle surgery -- would be on pace to smash the record by his fourteenth season in 2022. In comparison, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen played eighteen and nineteen years, respectively.”
Now, what if he did another 7 seasons of 300+ made three-pointers? Ultimately, it’s an unrealistic expectation, but Allen and Miller both nearly made it to 40 years-old with an effective long-range game. Curry turned just 28 on March 14th -- so, 12 more years of this? Sign me up. If that’s not enough to convince you of his MIP merit, what about his historically great PER?
Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, is an advanced statistic that measures an athlete’s per-minute production. ESPN tells us that the yearly NBA average in PER is about 15.00 and All-Stars like John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh are around 20.00 this season. But Curry’s PER? 32.35. The next closest is Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook at 27.94. OK, you say, but what about All-Time? Only 18 players have ever recorded a PER above 30 and they are: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Dwyane Wade, Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain -- pretty good company, right?
Well, not only is Curry on pace to join that historical group of legends and will-be Hall of Famers, he’s set to take the number one spot. His 32.35 PER would spot him above Wilt Chamberlain’s 1962-1963 mark of 31.82 when he played for the San Francisco Warriors, the best mark in NBA history.
For now, the only question is not if, but when with Stephen Curry. Over the course of his early career, he was troubled by a string of ankle injuries and fans wondered if he’d have fulfill his potential. Clearly, we’ve got that answer -- but a new question arises: how high can he go? With back-to-back MVP Awards and NBA Finals appearances on the horizon up, it’s time to admit that he’s taken his game to #AnotherLevel once again. Can a back-to-back MVP win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award? Only time can tell, but Curry’s statistics and pace prove that he may just be the odds-on favorite to win that too.