Though he never had a ridiculously hot week or month that put a charge into his candidacy, Curry was the favorite all along. Put simply, he was the best player on the league’s best team in October and then kept right on filling that role until April.
Though a broad view of Curry’s wire-to-wire dominance reveals the competition may never have been all that close, the competitors themselves spent a season making it seem that way. Because while Curry chugged along one picture-perfect pass and nothing-but-net trey at a time, the rest of the field took turns commandeering MVP momentum.
Davis made his case statistically, leading the Association in player efficiency rating and generally redefining what 22-year-old NBA players are capable of doing.
He posted some truly wild statistical lines, like the night against the Denver Nuggets on March 15 when he scored 36 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, swatted nine shots and handed out seven assists.
And he offered one of the season’s signature moments by drilling a game-winning three over Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a shot that proved decisive in the New Orleans Pelicans making the playoffs…where they fell to Curry’s Warriors in the first round.
James shook off a slow start to eventually morph his Cleveland Cavaliers into the East’s hottest team in the second half of the season. While there are many who’d argue (perhaps accurately) that he’s still the game’s best player, his rough first month and suspect defensive effort hurt him.
So did voter fatigue, no doubt.
Paul was on the fringes all year. He was the guy everyone argued should be in the conversation.
Perhaps Curry’s toughest, most consistent competitor, Harden established himself as the NBA’s most unstoppable one-on-one force. His claim to the award gained steam as he propped up a Houston Rockets team that lost Dwight Howard for a huge swath of the season.
With every “Hop on my back; I’ll carry us” win, Harden built his case, the foundation of which was almost comical efficiency. Harden lived beyond the arc, at the rim and on the foul line. Seemingly allergic to low-percentage looks, the Beard made more free throws than anyone else attempted this season.
Harden’s production was beautiful, but his methods were ugly.
Brian Phillips of elaborated:
In 20 years, no one’s heart is going to beat faster remembering how efficiently Harden got to the free throw line. You’re going to remember what it was like to see Curry pop into open space and catch the ball, the feeling of possibility that accompanied that moment. You’re going to remember watching the ball rise toward the basket. You’re going to remember how it hung at the top of its arc, and how you already knew what would happen, and how you couldn’t look away.
You might think the argument there, based on the feeling of wonder a player can inspire, helps Curry’s final competitor, Westbrook, more than anyone else.
After all, one of the most common arguments in Westbrook’s favor as he piled up 11 triple-doubles and dragged an injury-riddled Thunder team to the brink of the postseason was that his otherworldly individual efforts would be what people remembered most about the 2014-15 season.
Maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t totally address the point Phillips made about Curry. Because while Westbrook’s exploits were exceptionally conspicuous, they came with a question—is he actually hurting his team?—that Curry’s play never once raised.
Westbrook trafficked in aggression. In anger. In recklessness.
Watching Westbrook was like watching a lion take down prey in the Serengeti. Watching Curry was like seeing Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel—if he’d been humming and smiling the whole time…which he maybe was.
Curry’s joyously artistic season stood out for its individual brilliance and the unrelentingly positive impact it had on his team.
Giving the honor to anyone else would have subverted the norm of awarding the best player on the league’s best club. Except it would have been even less sensible than that, because to describe Curry and the Warriors this year, you’d have to substitute “historically great” for “best” in the preceding sentence.
Curry made more threes this year than anyone ever has over the course of a season, and he did it with a pull-up, off-the-dribble style we’d never seen before. His presence on the floor transformed Golden State from a decent team to one that statistically resembles Michael Jordan’s title-winning Chicago Bulls of the late 1990s.
Curry’s MVP win means voters prized consistency and saw past the flawed argument that it was the Warriors—with their brilliant schemes and talent-laden roster—who made their point guard look good.
It means everyone realized, from the very outset of a brilliant campaign, that it was Curry who made Golden State great.