By Blaine K, Average Nobodies guest writer
The folks on ESPN’s Sportsnation program are no strangers to hyperbole, as dramatic assertions and over-the-top opinions are basically encouraged on the program. But when a recent segment included the question, “Are Stephen Curry and the Warriors even better this season?” it was hard not to take the topic seriously. As NBA fans are well aware, Curry won the league MVP en route to leading his team to a championship a season ago. The Warriors won 67 games and dominated the playoffs, and Stephen Curry – the 185 pound sharpshooter who was once so overlooked by big colleges that he wound up at Davidson – became the biggest story in basketball.
Even then, though, no one was questioning the status of LeBron James as the best basketball player on the planet. James has built a resume that is already almost unmatched in basketball history. He can basically play all five positions, and he’s capable of controlling a game like no one else can. Even in the finals against Curry’s Warriors, James was a major story, as he kept a Cavaliers team that was missing two all-stars (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) fighting, more or less by himself. In short, Curry was the MVP and a newly crowned champion, but James was still the king…. Right?
Well, suddenly I’m not so sure, and neither are the oddsmakers. Betfair’s sports betting section posted odds for the NBA MVP at the outset of this season, and despite lots of analysts picking players like Anthony Davis, James, and Kevin Durant for the honors, Stephen Curry had the best odds at 7/5. That’s actually pretty astounding. Curry broke shooting records in 2014-15, while Durant was hurt, Davis was still considered very young, and James was adjusting to a new team. Logically one would expect a lower output from Curry, and improvement from the others. And yet his performance was strong enough to make him a leading MVP candidate once again.
And so far this season, Curry hasn’t disappointed. In fact, he’s playing better than he ever has. Curry’s stats are simply out of this world, albeit in just a handful of games to start the season. He’s averaging over 35 points per game, shooting 57% from the field and 52% from three, and somehow he’s throwing in 5.8 assists per game. He continues to improve on defense (2.2 steals per game) and he’s already gotten the better of other great point guards like Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, and Chris Paul head-to-head. His Warriors are 5-0 as of November 6th, and show every sign of being a serious championship favorite yet again.
Meanwhile, the other MVP favorites have struggled in various ways. LeBron James is demonstrating a preference to rest himself a little bit given his insane mileage in recent seasons. Davis has been good, but appears to be feeling the pressure of having been anointed the next big thing in the league. Durant has been fairly spectacular, but will always have to share his statistics with Russell Westbrook. James Harden has played well but pales in comparison to Curry’s performance thus far.
And all of this just has to make you wonder: might Stephen Curry have sneakily usurped the position of world’s best basketball player? It still feels almost blasphemous to think of anyone but LeBron James taking that distinction, but we’ve gone a full calendar year now with Curry being the hardest player to guard and the biggest clutch force in the NBA. Perhaps it’s time to give the point guard his due.