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Stephen Curry Wins 2014-2015 NBA MVP

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Curry had a magnificent season and was one of several players worthy of the award this year.

Stephen Curry Wins 2014-2015 NBA MVP

Today, the NBA named Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry the 2014-2015 NBA MVP. Curry beat out James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul for the award and became the second Warriors player to win after Wilt Chamberlain back in 1960. On the season, Curry averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds a game and led the Warriors to a league-best 67-15 record. Curry also barely missed joining the 50-40-90 club, which denotes shooting 50% from the field, 40% from three and 90% from the free throw line all in the same season. He eclipsed both the 40 and 90, but was a shade under 50 with a .487 FG%.

I always find the notion of assigning "value" difficult when it comes to the MVP, and this season was especially difficult. The way I assign it is to gauge how a team would have played without the player in question. If you look at the landscape of the MVP candidates, it's clear every team would have been much different without all of these players. Basketball Reference has their own statistical equivalent of baseball's VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), which essentially answers this question, and they have Curry edging out Harden 7.9 to 7.8. Here's an example of Curry doing something that no simple replacement player could do:

Curry was no doubt magnificent this season. He finished sixth in PPG and APG, fourth in the league in steals per game, led the league in FT%, finished fourth in 3P% and broke his own record for three-pointers made in a season while missing just two games. It isn't like he didn't deserve this award. He was the best player on the best team in the league.

Still, if I had a vote, I think it would have gone to James Harden. The Rockets finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference, but they wouldn't have been anywhere near 56 wins without Harden, who received just 25 1st Place votes to Curry's 100. Dwight Howard, his second fiddle, played in just 41 games this season. The second best player on his team missed half of the season's games. Curry's running mate, Klay Thompson, missed only five games and even got a 5th Place MVP vote for his play this season. Harden never had anything bordering an MVP candidate alongside him this season.

Howard wasn't the only member of Houston's supporting cast to go down, though. Young forward Terrence Jones played just 33 games this season. Point guard Patrick Beverly played in just 56 games and was lost for the season with 12 games remaining. Here was their opening night starting lineup: Beverly, Harden, Trevor Ariza, Jones and Howard. Only two of them played in over 60 games. In fact, only five players played in more than 60 games for Houston this season:

Trevor Ariza (82)
James Harden (81)
Jason Terry (77)
Donatas Motiejunas (71)
Joey Dorsey (69)

Of those five, Ariza, Harden and Motiejunas were the only ones to start more than 60 games this season. Harden was working with different units almost all year because of the injuries that hit the team.

Houston made several trades, bringing in key pieces like Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, Pablo Prigioni, Isaiah Canaan, Troy Daniels and Tarik Black to help fill in the roster when injuries were at their worst. Smith and Brewer have been essential pieces for the Rockets and each played over 55 games since being acquired. But before that, here's an example of a roster that Harden had to work with: a starting front court of Ariza/Motiejunas/Black with Kostas Papanikolaou playing 38 minutes off the bench, Jason Terry playing 22 and Francisco Garcia logging 15. That game was a 95-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks in November. Harden dropped 32 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out four assists and got two steals.

Once the trades were complete, Harden had to help assimilate the roster on the court, and he did so extraordinarily well on both sides of the ball. He shouldered the load for Houston offensively (career highs of 27.4 PPG, 7 APG) and was much more engaged on the defensive end (career highs 5.7 RPG and 1.9 SPG). Strangely, Harden's minutes went down this season (from 38 to 36.8), but he was doing much more on the court in those nearly 37 minutes.

Conversely, Curry experienced far more stability in Golden State. Nine players played in at least 60 games, and they had five of those players start at least 65 games. Four started 79 or more. The relative health, especially in the backcourt, is a luxury as far as continuity goes. When you're playing with the same people more, it's much easier to develop chemistry (and get time to rest; Curry averaged 32.7 minutes a game this season).

Harden was the glue that held the ragtag Rockets together all season long, and in my opinion, that's more valuable than Curry. But, Curry won, so why not watch a best-of video from this season:

If the Conference Semifinals go chalk, however, we'll get to see Curry's Warriors take on Harden's Rockets for a spot in the NBA Finals. Harden and the Rockets are disappointed in the MVP decision, but say they are focused on bigger things. If we get this matchup in the Western Conference Finals, you better believe there will be a little extra on the line between Curry and Harden: a chance to prove who the real MVP was this season.

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