Visualizing Stephen Curry's MVP season and explaining why he edged James Harden, LeBron James and others.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry was named the NBA's 2014-15 MVP on Monday, collecting 100 of a possible 130 first-place votes. Many pundits viewed the sharpshooting floor general as the favorite to win the award when the regular season ended, but Curry faced stiff competition from James Harden, Russell Westbrook and four-time MVP LeBron James among others.
Ultimately, though, Curry's feats were simply too remarkable and the “best player on the best team” mantra held true. With Curry taking home the league's top honor, 17 of the past 20 MVP winners have been on the league’s best or second-best team by record. Needless to say, leading a team to a top-two winning percentage by season’s end has been a steady barometer for MVP voting for the past two decades.
Curry is no doubt worthy of the league’s most prestigious individual honor, so let’s take a look at how he earned the hardware throughout an impressive 67-win campaign.
First and foremost when discussing “Chef Curry" is his oven- shooting touch. The Davidson product drained 44.3% of his three-pointers on the season and 42.1% of his shots atop the key, which was significantly above the league average of 34% across the NBA landscape. And while he didn’t launch as many triples from the left and right corners, his marks of 55.6% and 50%, respectively, were nothing short of spectacular.
Of course, three-point territory wasn’t the only area Curry excelled in when looking to score the rock.
Curry also cashed in on 54.2% of his mid-range shots from 4-to-16 feet and converted 76.4% of his attempts at the rim. The latter number is particularly noteworthy, as Curry was able to finish amongst the trees with acrobatic layups time and time again.
The only area he sputtered from was long twos, where his 38.1% mark left something to be desired. But considering that 48% of his attempts overall were fired away from distance, it’s clear that the former lottery pick knew how to play to his strengths. He made (286) and attempted (646) the most three-pointers in the league for the third consecutive season.
Curry’s scoring ability throughout the season was absolutely electric. His ability to create his own shot and shoot long jumpers off the dribble is arguably unparalleled in the sport (no disrespect to Harden and his saucy step-backs). But Curry is much, much more than a scoring machine.
Although the 27-year-old’s 7.7 assists per game were actually down from a season ago, he was clearly still a dynamic talent who elevated the play of his teammates by setting them for open looks and easy baskets at the rim. Overall, Curry ranked sixth in the NBA in dimes dropped per contest (he also ranked No. 6 in points per game). The Warriors were a significantly superior offensive team with Curry on the floor, as evidenced by his on-court/off-court figures.
His offensive prowess is no doubt the biggest standout in his game, but he was far from a slouch on the defensive side of the ball. Rim protection from defensive anchor Andrew Bogut, all-around effort from Draymond Green (who finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting) and elite perimeter defending from Klay Thompson ensured that Golden State was the league’s best defensive team (98.2 rating) at season’s end. But Curry was part of the equation as well, and opponents throughout the season didn’t play as well on offense when the MVP was out there defending.
And even if you choose to believe those numbers are solely a product of his supporting cast, Curry’s ability to hound opponents and defend passing lanes with his lanky limbs allowed him to finish No. 4 in steals per game.
Simply put, Curry was the best player on the regular season's best team. He was an unstoppable offensive force who rained threes and finished at the rim. And, for good measure, he bought into schemes and became a key cog on the NBA’s best defensive unit by pestering opponents and swiping steals. Put together, his two-way play resulted in a career-best PER.
All told, deeming Curry the NBA's Most Valuable Player makes perfect sense. He was elite from start to finish—and second to none.
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