The MVP award should be within the sights of Stephen Curry during the 2014-15 campaign.
After a sensational 2013-14 season in which Steph averaged career highs in points (24), assists (8.5), true shooting percentage (61) and PER (24.1), it’s time to look at Curry as an MVP candidate. To be clear, I’m not talking about him merely as a feel good story who could hopefully finish somewhere among the top five at the conclusion of the voting process.
Oh no, there is a legit chance for Curry to win the Maurice Podoloff trophy because of his play coupled with the ascension of the Golden State Warriors.
Indeed, Curry was among the best players in the league last season, and he seems poised to replicate that feat this year. Sports Illustrated ranked the top-100 players going into next year, and Curry was projected as the league’s eighth best baller.
“Mark Jackson [former head coach] didn’t always put Curry in the best positions to succeed last season, yet the Warriors were nonetheless an astounding 14.5 points better on offense per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor,” wrote SI’s Rob Mahoney. “That margin is wider than that between the NBA’s best and worst offenses last season, and it was largely a product of Curry freewheeling as he could while forcing defenses into uncomfortable positions. It helps that he keeps growing as a passer.”
Curry’s ball-handling wizardry blended with a remarkable shooting proficiency makes him one of the most unique players in the NBA, a sentiment that former Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson echoed: “Stephen Curry’s game is so different because you would never ever expect somebody that can shoot that well to be able to handle like he does.”
That combo makes him a terrorizing force (if further evidence is needed, just have a look at Adam Mayo’s video montage). What’s more, Curry has grown as a floor general to the point that he makes the offense look good even in the face of heavy defensive pressure. One can simply think back to the playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers last year, where head coach Doc Rivers sent aggressive traps at Curry.
Steph responded with averages of 23 points and 8.4 assists on 44 percent shooting. There’s no reason to think that any of that is going away. However, I think it’s fair to say there is room for Curry to become a little more efficient, which might sound ridiculous considering he’s arguably the best shooter ever.
Curry’s a bit of a sloppy ball-handler, and he often settles for low-percentage off-balance treys late in the shot clock. As Mahoney noted, part of that stemmed from Jackson’s deficiencies as a headman.
The offense lacked flow and movement under Jackson because he favored a style that took advantage of mismatches. It often made for choppy basketball, because players always looked for the best matchup as opposed to hunting down high-percentage shots.
This should change during the 2014-15 season with the tutelage of new coach Steve Kerr. Golden State’s new leader has implemented a system that employs concepts from the Triple-Post Offense. Although the preseason isn’t an accurate depiction of what will happen during the regular season, it offers a few glimpses.
The Warriors are sharing the ball more and moving seemingly in concert during exhibition games. What’s more, interior players (Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Draymond Green) have become pressure release points at the elbows because of their ball-handling and passing abilities.
This wrinkle will alleviate Curry of some of his passing responsibilities and turn him into an off-the-ball assassin. He will be able to move a bit more off screens where he can catch shoot with the best of them.
I feel compelled to point out that the Warriors won 51 games last year despite what was a shaky offense at times. An increase in that total along with an uptick in production will undoubtedly place Steph in the conversation for most valuable player.
Granted, LeBron James and Kevin Durant could pose a challenge.
I can’t blame anyone for thinking that LeBron and KD will alternate turns claiming the award for the remainder of the decade. That would be the smart money bet, but caveats apply here.
Durant will miss somewhere between six and eight weeks with a foot fracture, that will more than likely take him out of the MVP running unless the Oklahoma City Thunder go on something along the lines of a 55-5 run when the Slim Reaper rejoins OKC.
The Cavs should win somewhere around 55 games with James serving as the catalyst for Cleveland’s success. As a result, it figures that he will be the frontrunner to win his fifth MVP trophy.
There is a scenario where things play out differently, though. Former Minnesota Timberwolves player Kevin Love joined the Cavs via trade this past offseason and could very well command a large share of the offense. This isn’t to suggest he’ll monopolize possessions, but his repertoire will warrant a large share of touches.
Thus, it’s not inconceivable that Love might post great numbers alongside LeBron, which could earn Love a few of James’ votes. Furthermore, Cavs coach David Blatt is already on record stating that the four-time league MVP will be rested at times as a result of four straight trips to the Finals with the Miami Heat.
This should be the perfect storm for Curry to step into the spotlight and collect the trophy. In the interest of full disclosure, I believe that James’ otherworldly talent will ultimately trump all challengers, and No. 23 will add another piece of hardware to an ever-growing trophy case.
With that said, the circumstances are perfectly aligned for Steph to slip in and hoist the award. It’ll be tough, but I think the best shooter in the world has a shot, and he usually makes those…