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Stephen Curry is the Most Valuable Player in the NBA But Won't Win MVP

Liam McKeone
Steph Curry
Steph Curry / Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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The Golden State Warriors would be a lottery team if it weren't for the presence of Steph Curry. That is a fact. Draymond Green is very good at what he does but is so inept offensively that he never has and never will be the centerpiece of his own team. The rest of the team is an assortment of young players still figuring out how to put one foot in front of the other in the NBA and veterans like Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre, who should be better than they are, but they are not.

With Curry, the Warriors are still not a particularly good team, but they are good enough on most nights as long as Curry can score in bunches. Normally this is an unreliable strategy, but normally the player being relied on is not Steph Curry. Curry is indeed great enough to drag a team further than they have any right to go as the only legitimate scoring option on the floor at all times. Golden State currently sits in the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture, firmly in the play-in tournament but only two games behind the Mavs for the seventh seed.

Curry's scoring stretch over the month of April, during which he's averaging 40 points per contest and making threes at a rate never before seen in the league, has bolstered the Warriors in the standings enough that people are beginning to wonder out loud if Curry should have a case for another MVP trophy. It dominated discussion on Monday and Tuesday after barrages from Curry over the weekend and on the head of fellow MVP candidate Joel Embiid Monday evening.

Curry is quite clearly the most valuable player to his team, as everyone with eyes can observe that the Warriors would be in quite dire straits without their superstar. They are still not an elite team by any measure, but appearing in the playoff picture means they've won just enough games to keep Curry in MVP consideration. He has the narrative aspect on his side for the first time since his unanimous award in 2016; stepping up and dropping 40-burgers on a regular basis after longtime running mate Klay Thompson got hurt for the second year in a row, doing all of that coming off a lost season for Curry and his organization, it lines up.

But Curry will not win MVP, even if he is the dictionary definition of Most Valuable, because that's never been what this award is about. Most Valuable Player (in any sport, not just the NBA) is usually awarded to the player who outperformed all his peers and is one of the very elite players at his position, who also manages to win enough games that his team is considered a championship contender, while also putting up subjectively impressive statlines on a consistent basis. The final factor is simply left up to the voters, which is just who they feel deserves it more.

Curry can hit many of those benchmarks. His statlines are often subjectively and objectively impressive. He's playing better than nearly everybody in the NBA right now, much less his fellow point guards. The Warriors are not championship contenders by any stretch of the imagination, but that particular requirement can be twisted if it's obvious the player is the only reason the team is even above .500, and that is extremely clear with Curry.

If there were no one else hitting those requirements this season, then Curry would be en route to another MVP trophy. But there is. Nikola Jokic is scoring in bunches, putting up wild triple-double numbers, is reaching another echelon of play after getting better and better every year, and his team is the third seed in the West. He fits the profile of an MVP candidate perfectly. Jokic is new to the discussion, so there's no voter fatigue like there might be with Curry. His team is dominant most nights and he is the center of the universe on offense. Jokic has played nearly every game (the best ability is availability!) and even has a sick nickname, The Joker.

It's not that Curry doesn't have a case. It's just that Jokic's case is better. The Nuggets would probably be a fine team sans their Serbian superstar with Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray pre-injury. But they wouldn't be great. Jokic is the singular force that elevates them to greatness. To MVP voters, that's more valuable than elevating a terrible team to competency. So Curry might be the most valuable player on the court every night, but he isn't the NBA MVP. That's Jokic.

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