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Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry is exhibiting MVP behavior

After putting forth one of the greatest offensive seasons of all-time in a record-setting 2015-16, Stephen Curry took a slight step back last year. A step back for Curry was still an outstanding year (his otherwordly impact remained undeniable), but there were some rough patches for the two-time MVP as the Golden State Warriors incorporated another future Hall of Famer in Kevin Durant into the lineup.

Now with a year and a title alongside Durant under his belt, Curry seems as comfortable as ever as he rains fire on the NBA. While his base numbers aren’t where they were for that remarkable 2015-16 season, he is scoring more efficiently and Golden State is eviscerating opponents when he is on the floor.

Curry’s latest show came in Saturday night’s 127-108 destruction of the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City. His final numbers of 22 points and 11 assists on 7-of-14 shooting overall and 5-of-10 on 3-pointers doesn’t look like anything special, but most notably the Warriors outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 44 points in his 30 minutes of action:

Do some quick math and you’ll calculate that the Warriors were outscored by 25 points when Curry was on the bench. Some of this was due to an entire quarter’s worth of garbage time at the end (Denver outscored Golden State by eight in the fourth quarter), but the beginning of the second quarter saw a huge Warriors drought when Curry was on the bench that allowed the Nuggets to briefly enjoy the night.

Golden State erupted for 36 points in the first quarter and led by 13 thanks in large part to Curry’s distributing. He only had two points in the opening frame, but he handed out seven assists as Klay Thompson, JaVale McGee and Durant took care of the bulk of the scoring.

When Curry was sitting to start the second quarter, though, the Warriors fell apart offensively. When he finally returned to the game with 6:13 remaining in the half, a 36-23 lead had turned into a 41-39 deficit. Golden State only managed three points during that stretch without Curry and went another minute-plus without scoring with him back in the game.

Then the onslaught began. Behind eight points from Curry, the Warriors scored 21 points in the last 4:53 of the half to take a five-point lead into halftime. The third quarter turned into total annihilation, with Curry (12 points) and Durant (13 points) leading Golden State to a 43-point frame.

Curry was at his circus-shot best in the quarter, earning two 4-point plays:

 

 

Curry is averaging 26.7 points, 6.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds on the season. He has a shooting slash line of 49.7/41.2/94.2, and he is taking a career-high 6.9 free throws per game. His true shooting percentage is a ridiculous 69 percent (it was 66.9 percent in 2015-16), while his 30.59 PER is third in the league behind only LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is first in Offensive Win Shares, Win Shares, Win Shares per 48 minutes and Offensive Box Plus/Minus.

If those numbers aren’t eye-popping enough, his impact on the Warriors is enormous. The Warriors already possess an all-time great 118.2 offensive rating, but that number jumps up to an unthinkable 125.7 when Curry is on the court, per NBA.com. The defending champs have outscored their opponents by 20.8 points per 100 possessions with Curry. Both of those marks are tops in the league for big-minute players (Durant isn’t too far behind).

And when Curry sits? The Warriors have scored a pedestrian 101.2 points per 100 possessions in his 154 minutes on the pine. They’ve also been outscored by 6.3 points per 100 possessions in those minutes. So, they go from arguably the best team ever with Curry to legitimately bad without him. Some of this can be explained by the fact that Curry and Durant play a majority of their minutes together and often hit the bench at the same time, which sometimes leads to second-unit struggles. However, the Warriors are much better with Curry and no Durant (123.1 offensive rating, plus-14.1 net rating in 57 minutes) than they are with Durant and no Curry (106.7 offensive rating, plus-4.2 net rating in 85 minutes).

Some of these crazy numbers will likely come down over the course of a long season, but there is little reason to expect a significant dip. Curry’s extreme importance to the success of the Warriors has been an established trend since the rise of the franchise began half a decade ago.

Curry’s MVP candidacy will almost certainly be hurt by his loaded team and perhaps even voter fatigue. But if his performance and impact holds relatively steady over the course of the season, he’ll have a great case for MVP No. 3.

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