Where Stephen Curry's Season Stacks Up Historically with Best MVP Seasons Ever

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2015

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Due to his stellar work throughout the regular season, Stephen Curry now sits atop the NBA.

The Golden State Warriors point guard dazzled crowds from the first day of the campaign through the end of the regular season, creating plenty of highlight-reel moments, leading the Dubs to a historic 67-win year and even breaking his own three-point record. As a result, he's now the league's newest MVP, and his name will be engraved just below Kevin Durant's as the latest recipient of the sport's top individual honor.


The @Warriors' @StephenCurry30 named 2014-15 @Kia NBA Most Valuable Player! #KiaMVP http://t.co/1GHC2GzmeP

But just how dominant was Curry's season, relative to NBA MVPs of the past? Let's not worry about James Harden, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the other players who earned spots on various ballots, as they didn't win the award.

Curry did, and that means we have to compare him to the other NBA heroes who have held up the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (or won the award before the trophy was associated with the former commissioner). In this competition, finishing dead last is like graduating from medical school at the bottom of your class—you're still an MVP/doctor no matter what.

But Curry isn't going to finish last.

Your Standard Per-Game Stats

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 23: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2015 at Smoothie King Center in Ne
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We're not going to count blocks and steals, as that would be unfair to MVPs like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, who played before the league counted such stats. But points, rebounds and assists are fair game.

For better or worse (oftentimes, it's the latter), those three per-game numbers are commonly used as measuring sticks when evaluating players. It's pretty tough to win the MVP award without coming fairly close to the league lead in at least one of those categories.

By clicking through the following infographic, you can see which MVPs finished in the historic top 10 for each of the three as well as Curry's marks from this year:

The Dubs floor general was never going to be near the top of the ladder in scoring. After all, while he's a fantastic producer of points, he's also charged with setting the table for the rest of his talented teammates, and he's perfectly content to take a backseat if that's what's necessary to get the win.

By scoring 23.8 points per game, Curry is actually one of the lowest-scoring MVPs in NBA history. He's not close to touching Wes Unseld's record low of 13.8 points per contest in 1968-69, but he does lose out to Karl Malone by mere thousandths, putting him at No. 45 all time.

Rebounds per game aren't any kinder.

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 26:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors rebounds the ball against the Orlando Magic during the game on November 26, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
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Curry, who grabbed 4.3 boards during his typical outing, fares better than only Steve Nash (2004-05 and 2005-06), Derrick Rose (2010-11) and Allen Iverson (2000-01). But this shouldn't be particularly surprising, as precious few point guards have won this prestigious award. In fact, the only 1-guards ahead of him on the glass are Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, and it's pretty tough for any backcourt member to be on the level of those two legends.

But Curry's saving grace here is his passing. He's actually in the top 10, narrowly edging out Rose for the final spot on the featured leaderboard. The key? It may well be Bruce Fraser, a Warriors assistant who has been vital in training our newest MVP. Here's Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney:

At Fraser’s request, though, Curry is doing more ball handling in his pregame mix this season. He’s passing with both hands off the dribble to simulate the natural rhythms of playmaking. Fraser pulls from the warmups and skill training employed in his previous work with Steve Nash, who just so happens to be the most convenient Curry analogue. 

Obviously, it's worked rather nicely.

Curry, ever the master of the one-handed pass off the bounce, improved his assist-to-turnover ratio—a big knock on him in 2013-14—and now stands as one of the top 10 dime-dropping MVPs of all time.

Let's Get Advanced

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 26: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors stands on the court during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at The Quicken Loans Arena on February 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
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Per-game numbers don't tell the whole story. They're a bit unfair to Curry, who thrives partly because of his efficiency and ability to make the men around him better. Plus, he's playing in a slowed-down era, not the pace-inflated 1950s and '60s, among other faster times in NBA history. 

First, let's look at the most telling stat for shooting efficiency, true shooting percentage: 

Now that's elite.

Curry thrives in this category because there's no shot he can't make on the basketball court. He's not boosting his shooting efficiency by scoring an inordinate number of points around the basket or being remarkably selective with his looks, as some of the players shown above have done. Rather, he just seems to drain everything.

En route to making the most single-season triples of any player in NBA history (breaking his own record, in fact), Curry hit 44.3 percent of his three-point attempts.

"You can't really stop him. Obviously, you slow him down. He likes threes a lot so you try and run him off the line. You either just got to play it right or have him make a mistake," New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday told ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman earlier this season, explaining the strategy that so many fruitlessly tried to employ. Even when players attempted to run him off the line, Curry just drilled threes anyway.

And if the defender was successful in forcing Curry out of three-point territory, it often wasn't enough. He made a career-best 52.8 percent of his looks from within the arc and drilled a league-best 91.4 percent of his free-throw shots. 

Though he's not quite a member of the 50/40/90 club, he's pretty darn close. 

But more than just shooting matters. Below, you can click through and see how Curry fared in some of the most common overarching advanced metrics—player efficiency rating (PER), win shares and win shares per 48 minutes, which takes playing time out of the equation:

And we have box-score metrics as well, though it's notable that those only exist for MVPs who won the award in 1973-74 or later:

With the exception of defensive box plus/minus (DBPM), where Curry recorded the best mark of his career but still falls well behind most every former MVP in NBA history, the Dubs superstar ranks rather well. 

Unsurprisingly, he's at his best in the stat that's more geared toward offense than any other—offensive box plus/minus (OBPM), which shows how many extra points per 100 possessions a team would score with him on the floor instead of a league-average point guard.

In OBPM, Curry trails only two individual seasons. Michael Jordan's 1987-88 campaign gives him the all-time record for an MVP, while LeBron's fireworks in 2009-10 leave him at No. 2. This year's winner—on the offensive end, at least—is right up there with the legends of the sport.

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 26: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers at The Quicken Loans Arena on February 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
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However, the overall metrics leave him more toward the middle of the pack.

In PER, Curry is just inside the top 20, earning the same rounded-off mark of 28 that Wilt Chamberlain did in 1959-60. When looking at win shares, the point guard is much further down in the rankings (his 15.7 put him just outside the top 30 MVP-winning campaigns), but win shares per 48 minutes provide us with a more accurate picture.

After all, the Warriors were such a dominant team this season that Curry often sat out of entire fourth quarters, preventing him from playing as many minutes as quite a few of the others who earned this prestigious individual honor. He may not have earned as many win shares as some of the top MVPs, but the rate at which he compiled them trailed only 10, whom you can see above.

What Does This All Mean?

WASHINGTON, DC -  FEBRUARY 24: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors drives against the Washington Wizards on February 24, 2015 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
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Curry may have held his own in plenty of categories, but can he do the same when we combine them all? 

Our highly scientific method (Note: This really isn't scientific, but roll with it anyway) involves looking at where a player ranks in each relevant category. We're interested in the per-game marks for points, rebounds and assists as well as true shooting percentage, PER, win shares and win shares per 48 minutes. Unfortunately, we can't include the box-score metrics, or else we'd have to eliminate everyone who won MVP before 1973-74.

Earn the lowest total rank, and you'll be unofficially—very, very unofficially—declared the greatest MVP.

Here, we have the top 20 finishers as well as the sum total of their ranks in each category:

Lo and behold, that's Curry sitting near the bottom of the graphic. Not at the bottom of all MVPs in NBA history, of course, as he narrowly edges out David Robinson's 1994-95 season and Magic Johnson's work in 1988-89 (not shown) for one of the final featured spots.

That's not too shabby. In fact, it's rather impressive for a player who likely could have put up even bigger numbers—in some categories, at least—if he wasn't playing with so many talented teammates.

But regardless of how you measure his season, Curry's 2014-15 campaign will be remembered for quite some time. Not just because of the numbers, but because of his nightly impact on NBA coverage the next day.

Every time he played, it seemed like there was a new highlight. Whenever he was on, crossing over opponents, drilling threes and finding new creative ways to get into the paint, the Warriors were probably going to add another victory to their ever-growing tally.

Now, after emerging from a tight race to take home his first major trophy, Curry also stands up rather nicely when compared to the legends of the past. And with past and present dominance already on his resume, one can only imagine what the future holds for this baby-faced assassin.

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.

Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

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