Stephen Curry has been otherworldly in the early part of the 2021-22 season.
If there was an MVP handed out for the first quarter of the season, the trophy would definitely have Curry’s name etched onto it. But is he having his best season ever for the Warriors?
Let’s take a closer look.
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2015-16: Stephen Curry becomes Thanos
When one looks back on the career of Wardell Stephen Curry II, season 2015-16 is certainly the campaign that most would point to as his best season ever. It’s difficult to imagine Curry ever replicating that again – that was Thanos Curry.
Curry was so good that season that people say he broke the game of basketball.
The Warriors won a league-record 73 games and Curry was named unanimous MVP. In 79 games, he averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He made over half his field-goal attempts that season and connected on 45.4 percent of his 11.2 3-point attempts per game. He made over 90 percent of his free throws, joining the exclusive 50/40/90 club.
Curry is the only player in NBA history to average 30 points per game on 50-40-90 splits for an entire season.
His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) that season was 31.5 — the best for a guard since Michael Jordan’s 1990-91 season. By comparison, when the Bulls won 72 games in 1996, Jordan had a PER of 29.4.
In short, Steph had all his Infinity Stones powering his Infinity Gauntlet.
“He was going nuclear,” Shaun Livingston told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “Shooting out to 30-plus feet. Coming down 3-on-1s and pulling up from deep. I just remember getting the feeling — I’d been in the league, that was like my 12th year — I’ve seen Kobe [Bryant], I’ve seen Dirk [Nowitzki] go off, I’ve seen Gilbert [Arenas], like, how guys go off and it was, yooooooo … I remember being in that feeling, in that mode. It was like a Kobe Bryant when he goes for 20 straight and he was doing it game after game.”
Curry won the scoring title in 2015-16, but the Warriors lost in the NBA Finals to the Cavaliers that season, becoming the first team to blow a 3-1 lead.
The following season Kevin Durant arrived and Steph (willingly) took a backseat to the new arrival. His numbers dropped with Durant on the roster. Then when Durant left following the 2019 Finals and Klay Thompson was out injured, Steph was the solo Splash Brother again. Briefly. A hand injury forced him to miss 58 consecutive games during the 2019-20 season, and it wasn’t long before Steph was back doing Steph things.
2021-22: Blast from the Past
Fresh off his second scoring title in 2020-21, Curry, now in his 13th season in the league, appears to be as good as ever — or maybe even better.
The Warriors now hold a league-best 16-2 record to sit atop the Western Conference, with Curry putting up 28.2 points, 6.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game through the first 18 games of the season while knocking down 41.8 percent of his 12.9 3-point attempts per game – he’s actually taking, and making, more 3s than his 2015-16 season.
Against the Cavaliers last week, he notched his 38th career game with nine or more 3s in a game. For reference, no other player has more than 10. He’s on pace to surpass 400 3s for the season, shattering his own previous record.
Where Curry has made an improvement this season is on defence. Considered one of his weak points during the Warriors’ golden run, Curry now ranks in the top 20 in the league in both steals and deflections. Curry is also physically stronger than ever and has added considerable muscle to his frame since the 2015-16 season.
“I’ve always been a late bloomer at every level,” Curry says. “So it has been a conscious effort to take advantage of every offseason, get bigger, get in better shape.”
Earlier this year, teammate Draymond Green spoke to The Athletic about Curry’s defensive improvement.
“The stuff that he has (done) on that side of the ball has been incredible,” Green said. “Teams will try to post him up, and he’s too [expletive] strong now. They can’t post him up anymore. He’s gotten much quicker laterally. And most importantly, he don’t reach every play anymore. So his growth on that side of the ball (is significant). But because he’s been so good offensively, no one talks about it. His growth on that side of the ball has been insane.”
Golden State currently has the best defence in the NBA, and while Curry may not earn any defensive trophies, that side of his game is no longer a weak spot.
Is this Stephen Curry’s best season ever?
If we look at Curry’s overall game now, he is a much more complete player than he was in 2015-16 when we take into account both ends of the floor.
What he did in that season will likely not be replicated again – not by Steph or anyone else. When you factor in the numbers and the awards and the complete domination of the Warriors that season – not winning the championship withstanding – then numbers-wise, that will go down as his greatest season ever.
Where this season differs is it may not be statistically his best season, but it may just be his most valuable season. Curry is putting up incredible numbers without Thompson and James Wiseman. Without Curry, the Warriors are definitely not the best team in the league.
If the MVP award is truly awarded to the most valuable player, Curry is well on his way to adding a third to his trophy case.
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