Stephen Curry -140 to Win Finals MVP
Unlike Kawhi Leonard (+200), whose odds to win the award are worse than his team’s chances to win the championship (+250), a Curry MVP bet has twice the payout of a Warriors Finals Victory (-300).
Many have viewed the past two weeks as a Steph renaissance. Charles Barkley said on Pardon the Interruption that Curry again deserves to be “in the conversation” when it comes to who are the top 5 players in the league.
To me he never left that conversation. But I was surprised how universal this sentiment was.
Dan Devine said this in The Ringer’s Finals preview:
“[After] Durant got hurt, Stephen Curry promptly finished off the Rockets and annihilated the Trail Blazers, reminding us that just because he hasn’t been the two-time-MVP-destroyer-of-worlds version of himself since KD came to town, that doesn’t mean he can’t do it anymore.”
Dan here is right. Curry hasn’t been his former two-time MVP self the past couple years. He has actually has been in even better than that.
If you account for his lower usage rate, the last two seasons have been Curry’s best by almost any metric. Best Regular Season & Playoff Point Differential, Best Regular Season & Playoff +/-, Best Regular Season & Playoff True Shooting Percentage, Highest points per game in the playoffs, Highest PER in the Playoffs – all of these highest and bests for Curry’s career came AFTER Kevin Durant arrived in the summer of 2016.
Steph has become a better shooter (somehow), a better defender and a better passer each of the past five seasons. Yet people act like Steph was a good player who won a couple MVPs in the mid 2010’s before he got hurt, at which point the team moved on to Kevin Durant and Steph became a role player.
The reason Steph’s continued excellence is not present in our general perception is because of the 24/7 Media cycle.
Generally, we hone-in on one person and one narrative at a time. The Media picks one name to start its headline. After every game, after every series and after every year. Those not selected all fall into the same category, regardless of how they played. They are also-rans.
Really, it’s perfect plausible that two players could reach all time levels at the same time. We’ve seen it before. We didn’t appreciate Kobe’s early 2000’s playoff performances at the time, because the story was Shaq. But Kobe never had a better series offensively than he did against the Sacramento Kings in 2001. He averaged 35 points per game in 4 straight wins and after the series the first thing Shaq said was “Kobe is the best player in the world.” That was 7 years before he won his only MVP.
There is no better snapshot as to Curry’s improvement than his Finals performances before and after Durant arrived.
Curry in 15 & 16 Finals: 24.1 PPG, 4.9 APG
Curry in 17 & 18 Finals: 27.1 PPG, 8.2 APG
Not even close. Where he struggled in his first two years in the big dance – whether through his injury or inexperience or whatever – Curry has been his full Curry self over the past two Junes.
Durant will likely come back too late in this series to make a serious push for his 3rd straight Finals MVP. Given that, Curry is great value to win it. Contrary to popular belief, he has improved vastly from his MVP years. Moreover, Curry has Kyle Lowry’s number. He has had his most success – in terms of Points Per Game & Assists Per Game – vs. the Raptors than versus any other team in his career.