One of the most exciting NBA regular seasons in recent memory has come to a close, smashing pretty much every expectation made before the start, and yet I still feel like I’ve been left with an empty feeling in my gut.
Though many players have received their due credit and respect throughout the season, there is one man who hasn’t gotten nearly enough love: Wardell Stephen Curry, the Players’ MVP.
LeBron was right. Ja Morant was right. Mark Jones was right. Curry is the MVP of the 2021 NBA regular season.
Throughout this season, Steph averaged an absurd 32 pts, 5.8 ast, and 5.5 reb on a .482/.421/.916 split. Why is this absurd though? Because it was the most impressive regular season of Curry’s career. Take his 15-16 season in which he won the MVP award unanimously. Throughout that season, Steph averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.4 rebounds on a .504/.454/.908 split. Slightly better statistically than this season, yes, but with much more help, which brings us to our first point:
The Warriors are arguably the worst team in the league without Curry.
First off, the Warriors were absolutely the worst team in the league last year while Steph was out due to a broken hand, and this team was just as bad without him. Overall, the team is 14.2 points per 100 possessions better when Steph is on the floor, and 16.1 per 100 offensively. This ranks in the 98th and 100th percentile respectively. Offensively, they are 111.11 per 100 with him, 95.01 per 100 without him. Staggering numbers.
This equated to an insane amount of wins. Curry claims a +4.7 efficiency differential, which turns the Warriors into a 53-win team if he didn’t miss any time this season. That’s a 35 game gap if Curry had missed the season, leaving them with just 18 wins all year. Not to mention, the Warriors were 2-7 without him this year. Stephen Curry is the most valuable player on a playoff team than any other player on any other team in the playoffs.
The Warriors faced more hardship this season than any other team in the league.
On draft night, it was reported that Klay Thompson would not be making his return because of a torn achilles. Excitement was still alive in Golden State though, as they selected big-man James Wiseman with their second overall pick. Wiseman ended up playing extremely well in limited minutes as a rookie, giving size and depth to a team that desperately needed it. But, as things typically do for the Warriors, plans had to dramatically shift when Wiseman had a season ending injury about halfway through the campaign. The NBA world wondered how the Warriors would recover without their only true big man, and because of Curry, they not only recovered but got better.
Without Wiseman, Steph averaged 36.3 points per 36 minutes on 66.9 percent true shooting with a 34.6 percent usage rate, including a magical April and May in which he averaged 37.1 points with a .493/.437/.904 split across 23 games. Watching Steph through this stretch was unlike watching any player in NBA history. The team as a whole was also insanely good, scoring 117.9 points per 100 possessions in those minutes with a plus-9.2 net rating. This is better than their most-used starting lineup managed in the 2017-18 season which featured Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in it.
Curry earned the accolades needed as well.
This section as a whole is going to be primarily a list, as it needs no added commentary or explanation of the greatness. Throughout the season Curry picked up the following accolades:
- Led the NBA with 32.0 PPG
- Led the NBA with 337 threes
- Led the NBA with a plus-220 plus/minus rating
- Fourth season of 300-plus three-pointers (most in history)
- Seven games of 10-plus three-pointers (most in history)
- 5.3 three-pointers made per game (most in history)
- Broke Warriors all-time scoring record from Wilt Chamberlain
- 38 30-point games, most since Michael Jordan
- Won the scoring title, oldest to win since Michael Jordan
- Became the fourth player all-time to have multiple MVPs, scoring titles and championships joining Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.
We just witnessed one of the greatest seasons of all time. Nikola Jokic won the media narrative resulting in what will be his first MVP award, but when the media doubted Steph Curry’s ability to carry a team into contention, he did it. Curry became a more valuable player for a playoff team than any other player on any other playoff team.
Steph carried a team that had the worst record in the league last year to a 39-win season and a playoff seed, fully cementing himself as one of the greatest players to touch a basketball court and smashing the narrative that he couldn’t carry a team on his back.
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