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Is Stephen Curry Really in the NBA MVP Conversation?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterNovember 26, 2014

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Stephen Curry has been putting up standout numbers for years now. And he's been making us drool with a game that's easy on the eyes and arguably the sharpest skill set in the league. 

But now the stats and slick moves are actually starting to translate into consistent wins. The Golden State Warriors are currently second in the Western Conference with a 12-2 record and a defense that ranks No. 2 in the NBA in efficiency.

It's obviously early in the season, but by the looks of things, this Warriors squad appears as dangerous as any out there. According to OddsShark.com, only the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs have better odds of winning the 2015 title. 

At this stage, it's fair to say the Warriors have reached championship-contender status. And if they can hold it, someone deserves recognition.

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Fresh off a 40-point explosion—on 19 shots no less—in a win over the Miami Heat, followed by a 28-point performance (6-of-8 from three) while beating Orlando, Curry is now averaging 24.2 points, 7.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals on 49.8 percent shooting.

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There's no question that he's emerged as a clear-cut 2015 MVP candidate. If one assumes he can sustain his current numbers, if not improve on them, they're certainly worthy of consideration. Derrick Rose, the last point guard to win MVP, put up numbers just like these (25.0 points, 7.7 assists, 44.5 percent shooting) during his 2010-11 award-winning season. 

Of course, the Chicago Bulls won 62 games that year. And if you're betting on Curry, it means you're really betting on Golden State to keep rolling right along. 

Every MVP over the last 20 years played for a team that finished top two in its respective conference. 

And the Warriors can earn a No. 2 seed. There just aren't two teams in the West that are head-over-heels better than the pack—especially with the Oklahoma City Thunder starting off in such a deep hole. 

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In terms of what he's done differently this year and where he's improved, Curry is taking one more shot per game within 10 feet of the hoop while finishing at the rim at a much better 67.2 percent rate, up big from the 57.1 percent he shot around the trees last season.

At the same time, he's maintained his ludicrous 3.3 three-pointers-per-game average and scorching 45.0 percent shooting clip from downtown.

And despite Curry's scoring prowess and the time he spends off the ball, he still ranks No. 6 in the NBA in points created by his assists.

Curry really defines the term lead guard or floor general based on his ability to run the offense and take it over on demand. The ability to successfully deliver in that role plays to Curry's value on the floor, which is what the MVP award is really all about. 

He's not the front-runner; rather, he's the best bet of all the dark horses or atypical candidates. 

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We'll still consider LeBron James the favorite because he was the favorite before the season and we're still in November. But he's clearly not looking at a cake walk. The Cleveland Cavaliers have started off 7-7, and if they don't land a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the East, it would be tough to justify giving him the award with all the talent on that roster.

Last year's MVP, Kevin Durant, has already sat out the first 16 games of the year due to injury. Between the time he's missed, plus however long it takes for him to get his legs back—along with the expectation that Oklahoma City won't finish near the top of the Western Conference anymore—the odds appear to be against Durant repeating.

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Marc Gasol is definitely looking like an MVP candidate, and if the Grizzlies finish where they are—No. 1 in the conference—he'd be tough to argue against. But the Grizzlies are currently No. 7 in offensive efficiency after finishing No. 16 a year ago, and they didn't really add much offense this offseason. Can they keep putting up points at their current rate?

LaMarcus Aldridge is a guy I'd fear. You know he'll have the numbers, and this Blazers group just continues to get better.

ESPN's Kevin Pelton points out (subscription required) why you may not want to bet on the boys in L.A. or the NBA's newest NBA superstar.

If the Warriors exceed expectations, Curry will get the credit, and he won't split votes like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for the Los Angeles Clippers. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans is also a popular dark-horse pick, but given that the MVP award almost always goes to a player from a top team, the Pelicans would have to stun experts for Davis to be in contention.

At this point, it's a little early to get carried away with the MVP conversation, but you can still have it. And it wouldn't be complete without mentioning Curry as a legitimate possibility. 

“He’ll be an All-Star. He’ll be all that stuff. You continue to win games, and those wins add up, it’ll be hard to deny him the MVP, ” his teammate Draymond Green told ibabuzz.com's Diamond Leung.

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Ironically, it's guys like Green, as well as other role players like Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, who can help out Curry the most, because the biggest hurdle on his MVP quest will be getting the wins to qualify.

Curry will also likely need a few things to go his way that are out of his control, like the Cavs struggling to jell, the Grizzlies offense regressing and the Blazers cooling off. But if he's able to carry this Warriors squad near the top of the West—a team that's always been considered more of a "tough out" than a realistic contender—you probably won't have many questioning Curry's credentials, regardless of what his competition does. 

With the top two preseason MVP candidates both looking at uphill battles, given the time it's expected to take for James' Cavaliers to come together and Durant to recover from his devastating injury, this year's award is up for grabs. 

And Curry, who's playing the best ball of his career for one of the best teams he's ever been on, is in a strong position to pounce.

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