James Harden

Where Steph Curry's back-to-back MVPs rank among 2010s award winners

Where Steph Curry's back-to-back MVPs rank among 2010s award winners

The last decade was littered with some of the greatest MVP seasons in NBA history.

From Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 becoming the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to LeBron James taking his game to new heights during the 2012-13 season, there was no shortage of singular campaigns to remember. Of course, Warriors star Steph Curry was plenty unprecedented on his own, becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history in 2015-16 and the only player other than James to win the award multiple times in the 2010s.

[RELATED: Warriors' season reportedly over in NBA plan likely to pass]

Curry's MVP wins will stand the test of time, but where do those campaigns stand among his award-winning peers' in the last 10 years? Here's how I ranked the MVP-winning seasons of the 2010s, starting with arguably the biggest outlier among the bunch. 

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHERE CURRY RANKS AMONG THE LAST 10 MVP WINNERS

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No Warriors bigger help to James Harden's title quest than weight loss

No Warriors bigger help to James Harden's title quest than weight loss

James Harden's NBA playoff failures are well-chronicled, with many coming at the hands of Steph Curry and the Warriors.

Like a boyfriend afraid of commitment, the Rockets star has gone missing in a number of key fourth quarters in big playoff games during his career. Harden's 10 missed 3-pointers in the Rockets' Game 7 loss to the Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference finals were the final nail in his coffin, and the dud he laid when Curry and the Warriors eliminated the Rockets in Game 6 of last year's West semis got him pushed out to sea with the rest of the stars who slink away from the bright lights.

Only an NBA title can bring Harden's legacy absolution, and 2020, should the season resume -- could be the perfect time. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, after five years at the top of the NBA, Curry and the Warriors will be absent from the playoffs after being ravaged by injuries and a changing roster following Kevin Durant's departure.

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The Warriors' absence is only one part that allows the Rockets' title hopes to improve, though. With the NBA on pause because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Harden has used the time to get into ridiculous physical shape.

After the season went on hiatus, Harden went to Arizona to undergo boot camp workouts, as a recent story in The Athletic detailed. Instagram photos show a trimmed-down Harden, and one talking head who has been saying a lot of late believes this makes the Rockets title favorites.

"James was in the lab," Kendrick Perkins said on ESPN's "The Jump." "It shows dedication. He's going to be dangerous. You're talking about a guy who was one of the most prolific scorers to ever touch the basketball, and he done lost weight and he's dedicated. It's going to be dangerous. It puts the Rockets up there as a heavy favorite to win the title if the season resumes.

"That's the whole problem is that he always got tired and he always got exhausted and he always disappeared in the fourth, and you know what being conditioned and putting yourself in shape, that affects you, so that in the end, when it's crunch time, it's going to take them to newer heights."

Slow your roll there, Perk.

First of all, if the NBA season resumes -- which it is on track to do so at the end of July -- the Rockets must run through a gauntlet of teams -- including LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, and Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers -- to win the title. The Rockets' decision to go all-in on a small-ball lineup in which no player is over 6-foot-6 is not a strategy that can work in a seven-game series against the league's best teams.

Perkins later noted that during his time with Harden as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team had to help the guard control his weight. But Harden's playoff failures don't lie in his weight or "beefy" appearance, as his teammate, Austin Rivers, would say.

[RELATED: Harden better player than Curry, Perkins says]

Harden's playoff duds came time and time again with a better team led by a better superstar standing in the way.

Curry and the Warriors have eliminated Harden and the Rockets in four of the last five seasons. During those series, the Warriors are 16-7 in those contests, with Curry outdueling him in the biggest moments, with Game 6 of the 2019 Western Conference semifinals putting the icing on the cake.

Harden is a tremendous scoring talent, but any apparent weight issues haven't caused him to go missing in the big moments or kept him from winning the title.

Curry and the Warriors did that. They were superior in every way, every year.

Their absence from the 2020 playoffs will be a bigger boon to Harden's title chase than any boot camp. But still don't expect the small-ball Rockets to be playing deep into September after the season resumes.

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Odds of Rockets missing 27 straight 3-pointers vs. Warriors was insane

Odds of Rockets missing 27 straight 3-pointers vs. Warriors was insane

It was a (non) shooting display unlike anything we have ever seen.

On this day two years ago, May 28, 2018, the Houston Rockets set an NBA playoff record by missing 27 consecutive 3-pointers in their Game 7 loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

The Rockets led by 15 points in the first half, but due to a classic Warriors third-quarter explosion -- and all those Houston missed 3s -- Golden State walked away with a 101-92 victory.

It’s a highlight that has been the bane of the Rockets’ existence for the last two years, and one that Warriors fans love to jeer about at any given moment.

But just how unlikely were those 27 straight misses?

Two years ago, FiveThirtyEight did the math and well, it was highly improbable.

As in, 1-in-72,000 improbable.

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FiveThirtyEight published a story the day after the game that used Quantified Shot Probability (qSP) data in order to “weigh the likelihood of a shot going in depending on who’s taking it, how close the nearest defender is to the shot, and how quickly that player is closing out -- from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats, which use high-level cameras to track on-court movement.”

With this data in hand, FiveThirtyEight concluded that the “Rockets embarked on an approximately 1-in-72,000 cold streak from deep at the worst possible time, with a trip to the Finals on the line.”

Wow.

The Rockets’ misses were spread pretty evenly throughout the team, led by James Harden, of course, who went 0-10 during the span (Harden shot 36.7 percent from deep during the 2017-18 regular season). Eric Gordon (35.9 percent) missed seven, and Trevor Ariza (36.8 percent) missed six of his own.

[RELATED: Watch Steph and Klay's 10 most clutch shots of career]

Happy two-year anniversary to this glorious game, Warriors fans. And next time the odds might seem long, remember that stranger things have happened. 

One-in-72,000 strange.

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