Stephen Curry Wins MVP, But Isn’t The NBA’s Most Valuable Player
Stephen Curry Wins MVP, But Isn’t The NBA’s Most Valuable Player
“Steph Curry is the MVP, but LeBron is the best player in the NBA.”
– Greeny on ESPN’s Mike & Mike.
“Steph should win the best player award, LeBron should win the MVP. I’m not sure this league has had a single player as valuable as LeBron James.”
– Colin Cowherd on ESPN’s “The Herd”
There is no denying that Steph Curry has had an absolutely historic campaign, and one of the best regular seasons we’ve seen in NBA history. However, even despite this monumental run, the question still ponders, is Steph actually this league’s most VALUABLE player?
We all know what the award stands for, however, despite his unbelievable campaign with the Warriors, in the true sense of the award and meaning, Steph is not the most valued and impactful player in the NBA. That mantle is, and remains with, number 23 in downtown Cleveland, LeBron James.
Now as we dive into this conversation and debate, it’s important to outline that the MVP award is interpreted differently for many individuals. In a lot of ways, the award has become diluted in the past couple of years with the emergence of Steph Curry. You see, Steph is a part of a supremely gifted and functioning outfit in the Warriors, who have now cemented themselves as a historic franchise in NBA history as a collective. Yes, Steph is the head of the snake, however, the meaning of the award gets lost due to the brilliance of the Warriors as an overall unit.
Charles Barkley recently stated;
“LeBron and Kawhi Leonard are, to me, the two best players in the world. Steph Curry’s the best offensive player in the world… [They’re] better all-around. If you actually watch the Warriors play, Klay Thompson always guards the best guard. That’s not a knock. Larry Bird wasn’t a great defender, Magic Johnson wasn’t a great defender. But they’re still probably two of the 10 greatest players ever. Steph is amazing, and that’s not hating on him.”
Barkley’s comments are accurate and outline the obvious, Steph doesn’t affect the game in more ways than others do, especially LeBron James. In reference to Colin Cowherd’s comments, it’s quite possibly true, there has never been a player more valuable in NBA History than LeBron. So when we are talking about the MVP award, why hasn’t LeBron been given more consideration or perhaps even the edge over Steph? A couple of reasons come to mind straight away. Let’s have a look at them.
1. Steph and the Warriors historic season
To be fair to him, it is hard to argue against Steph receiving the MVP award after the season he has had. He hit over 400 three pointers, he joined the “50, 40, 90” club, his numbers were superb and the Warriors won an NBA record 73 games. To not give him the award would be silly wouldn’t it? Well, perhaps not if you want to stay true to what the award represents. You see, Steph Curry is the best player on the best team, however, there is no such award in the NBA for that. Therefore, Steph must be given the MVP award to honor his historic campaign despite him not being the league’s most valuable player. Now, I have nothing wrong with honouring his season or Steph winning the award, but when other title contenders have players that are more valuable to their respective teams, then simply giving the award to Steph becomes complex and difficult. It becomes less straightforward and doesn’t quite add up.
2. Voters’ fatigue
It is crazy to think that Steph Curry is the first unanimous MVP in NBA history, but this in fact happened. Not one first place vote for LeBron James, not one first place vote for Kawhi Leonard, not one first place vote for Russell Westbrook. It’s very hard to comprehend that no one in the history of this game has ever received all 131 first place votes before. Not Michael Jordan in 1988, not LeBron James in 2013, not Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, not Tim Duncan in 2002, not Larry Bird in 1985. Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady recently stated Steph’s unanimous MVP is due to the lack of competition and quality in today’s NBA;
“For him to get this unanimously, it just tells you how watered down our league is. When you think of MJ, Shaq…I mean, those guys really played against top notch competition. More superstars, I think, on more teams, than it is in our league today.”
As much as I’m a fan of I am of McGrady, and even though I respect his opinion, I actually disagree with it. The NBA has transformed, and is the most advanced it’s ever been. The physical output and demand for players is at an all-time high, and players have become truly multifaceted, unlike previous eras in the game’s history. The real reason why Steph’s MVP award was unanimous, was due to voters’ fatigue. The NBA is a league always looking for its next poster boy, the next superstar to take the league forward, and that is now Steph Curry. This is how the NBA has gone throughout its history, and this will continue to be the case in years to come. Steph and the Warriors’ campaign was incredible, but it didn’t mean we had to ignore the fact the award should still be dissected and valued correctly. The world and the league was consumed by the Warriors’ run, and in turn, forgot about the rest of the NBA. For Steph Curry to be the first unanimous MVP ever, keeping in mind the names I mentioned above just to name a few, is not just mind boggling, its just plain wrong.
3. LeBron James is always measured against himself
Think about how many players in NBA history can average over 25 points, over 6 assists, over 7 rebounds, shoot 52% from the field and lead their team to a number 1 overall seed in a season without getting strong consideration for MVP? Only LeBron James could manage that. For some reason, we have now fallen into a situation where we now take LeBron for granted, and don’t appreciate what he has done in this league and continues to do to this very day. Unfortunately, due to the player he is and the player he will retire as, he will always be measured against his own greatness. Voters and NBA personalities alike find it hard to give LeBron the award again due to the campaigns he’s had previously when he’s been crowned MVP. How can we give LeBron MVP when it’s not even the best version of LeBron we’ve ever seen? This mindset is wrong and makes little sense when acknowledging every season is different with different approaches and circumstances. LeBron now, could have realistically won two more MVPs in his career, most controversially in 2011 with Derrick Rose, and his value continues to get undervalued to this day. Orlando Magic guard Brandon Jennings, has recently taken to twitter to voice this very opinion;
Romeo Travis went on to echo this;
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY?
Like everything, opinions are opinions. But, when accompanied by facts and numbers, it leaves little room to argue against. Let’s have a look at some numbers between the two of them and the impact they have on their respective title contending teams.
The Cavaliers without LeBron James this season have a record of 1-5
The Warriors without Steph Curry this season have a record of 7-3?
In the 2016 postseason without player on the court:
Steph Curry: the Warriors are +10.8
Draymond Green: the Warriors are -10.7 (outlines Green’s value)
LeBron James: the Cavs are -13.7
The Cavaliers got beaten by the Wizards by 14 (meaningless 15-0 run to finish the game making the score line respectable) when LeBron sat out during the regular season. They then played them 5 days later with LeBron and won by 25.
The Cavs would have hardly made the playoffs this season with how they played against teams without LeBron, conversely, the Warriors would comfortably make the playoffs and more than likely hold a top 4 seed even without Steph.
The Cavs would have lost to Detroit in the first round without LeBron, on the other hand, the Warriors have won two series basically without Steph Curry. In Game 1 of the first round series against the Pistons, in the 7 minutes LeBron wasn’t on the floor, the Cavaliers were outscored 23-10 and shot just 27% from the floor.
Their impacts on their teams.
FULL STATS COURTESY OF NBAWOWY.COM AND NBA.COM
As you can see, the statistics are overwhelmingly in the favour LeBron in terms of impact and value. It’s very hard not to reward Steph the MVP after the season he has had, but perhaps the NBA should have always had two awards, most outstanding player (MOP) and the MVP. Or, perhaps not. Steph is an unbelievable talent and offensive superstar, but when measuring a player’s greatness, impact and overall value, no one quite stacks up to LeBron, even in today’s changing NBA world. Colin Cowherd went on to say “LeBron has been the MVP of this league for the last decade”, and if you really think about it, it’s hard to argue against him. He still remains the only player in the league that makes you a title contender simply by having his name on your roster. He may not have won the MVP, but LeBron is still this game’s most influential player. I salute you Steph Curry, you are amazing, but 131 votes still can’t change who truly is the leagues’ most valuable player.