Though I’m someone who typically prefers traditional point guards like Chris Paul over the new age of point guards like Steph Curry, I have to admit, Curry is playing at an unbelievable level. Curry puts on an extraordinary performance night in and night out, and his circus-like playing style has led him to be the NBA’s current scoring leader and front-runner in the MVP race; for some, it’s also earned him the title of best player in the NBA. But before Curry’s breakout season two years ago, a guy named LeBron James held the title of NBA’s best player. Has Curry taken King James’ crown?
Yes, Curry’s numbers are ridiculous; yes, he and the Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA champions; yes, he’s already being seriously considered as the best shooter ever. But is it really fair to consider him a better player than LeBron, in an overall sense? Is it really fair to give him his second consecutive MVP Award?
Stephen Curry has one of the best supporting casts of any NBA MVP in history. LeBron James? Not so much, despite the presence of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, two great players in their own regard. People tend to confuse Curry’s success with his team’s success; Curry does in fact help his team win, and he is the best player on the roster, but without Steph, the Warriors would at least be a playoff team. If you put LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the same scenario, the Cavs would most likely miss the playoffs and be banking on a lottery pick to help turn things around.
The idea of an individual winning the MVP, despite not necessarily being viewed as the best player, is nothing new. Remember Steve Nash? He won consecutive MVP awards in 2005 and 2006, and averaged only 17.1 points per game and 11 assists per game though those stints. In addition, Nash had no defensive presence, forcing Shawn Marion to guard the opposing team’s point guards. Not to knock Nash, who will certainly go down as one of the top ten point guards in NBA history, but there was a handful of players who were arguably snubbed in at least one of Nash’s MVP seasons–including Kobe Bryant, who was arguably the best player in the league at the time and led the league in scoring in Nash’s second MVP year. Clearly Curry’s numbers are better than Nash’s during that time, but the point is that just because an individual is given the MVP doesn’t mean they’re the best player in the league.
The MVP is given to a player with an outstanding regular season performance, but their team’s record has a large influence on the decision.
One way to settle this dispute would be to answer this question: whom would you draft first, if given the chance? If you answered Curry, you probably wouldn’t make a good NBA general manager. King James is the epitome of a franchise player, and the impact he has on his team goes beyond his numbers; he brings intangibles to the table that are overlooked the majority of the time. Curry is a hell of a scorer and playmaker, and seems like a pretty nice guy off the court, but in his first three years with Golden State–when he didn’t have his current supporting cast–he was nowhere to be found. How can a player with James’ type of impact take a second seat?
Curry is a better scorer than LeBron, and yes, he has the better team–but that’s about it. Curry is a phenomenal player who has shown the world something different, but this doesn’t make him the best player in the NBA. There’s someone who already holds that title.