There is a chance that Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry could do something this season that only Kareem Abdul Jabbar has accomplished. Curry could become just the second player in NBA history to win MVP honors and not make the playoffs.
In baseball, the concept is not unheard of. Since the 2000 MLB season, there have been nine MVPs between the AL and NL that did not make the playoffs. But in the NBA, history paints a drastically different story.
When it comes to the NBA MVP, history makes it seem like winning is a key factor. Most of the time, the NBA MVP has come from a team ranked in the top three of their conference in wins. The MVP will often be the best player on one of the two teams that finished first in their conference.
But that is not always the case—just, usually.
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2021 NBA MVP Race Does Not Appear To Be Close
It makes the season a little less exciting when one player dominates the competition so well that many perceive him as a lock for MVP. But that seems to be happening this season. The talk has centered on Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic for much of the season.
As we head down the stretch, he appears to be a virtual lock. According to the oddsmakers, he has a 95, 93.33, and a 96.15 percent chance of winning.
To be fair, he is having an incredible season. He has been a rock in a Nuggets lineup that has seen its share of injuries this season. Not only is he producing (26.4 points. 108 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game; 57 double-doubles in 68 games), but he is doing so in an incredibly efficient manner.
His efficiency rating this season is shaping up to be inside the top 20 of all time.
With the Nuggets looking like a lock for the third or fourth seed, his candidacy covers all the bases. So—why are we even talking about someone else?
Because Steph Curry is trying to redefine what greatness is. The Warriors guard leads the league in scoring (31.9 points/game) and is averaging over five three-pointers a game. In April, he averaged over 37 points a game and had an 11-game streak where he recorded 30+ a game.
Curry has willed the Warriors into the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. With only a handful of games left, it looks like the Warriors will make the play-in tournament and face off with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since the tournament is still technically the regular season, a big game in an even bigger win over the Lakers in the tournament could launch his candidacy from a ‘not likely but possible’ to a definite maybe.
If you are looking to take the easy route, then put your money on Jokic. People are acting like he’s already won it, and he is having an MVP-worthy season. But with the odds being what they are, you will have to risk at least $1400 just to win $100.
The risk is not worth the reward. But is the risk worth the reward when it comes to Steph Curry?
Well—yes and no. If the Warriors do not make the playoffs, he will have to do something only one other player has done before (win MVP while not making the playoffs). But even if the Warriors do slide in as the 7-seed or 8-seed, there have only been a handful of MVPs from lower-seeded teams.
Some would say it is not fair to hold that against him. It is not his fault the rest of the team is not that good. But others would say Curry is producing like he is because the rest of the team is unimpressive. At the same time, is it fair to give Jokic so much credit when a good team surrounds him?
Then there is the ‘is Curry the best player but not the most valuable’ argument. Few would argue that he is not the best player, but his value this season could come into question since the Warriors may not even make the playoffs. But that brings the discussion back to whether a great player on an average team deserves MVP over a great player on a good team.
"Steph Curry the best player in the league" -Shaq pic.twitter.com/MqkZEIQxYG
— Antonin (@antonin_org) May 7, 2021
Historically, it does not look good for Curry. Westbrook’s win gives Curry fans hope, but then there’s Oscar Robinson’s season in 1962. He averaged a triple-double but lost to Bill Russell that year. But when you can get +2300 odds and win $230 while risking just $10, it is worth skipping your morning latte for a few days and putting some money on Curry.