Warriors

Warriors

The Warriors return from the All-Star break to host the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, beginning a stretch of the final 25 regular-season games leading into the playoffs.

Those 25 games represent Steph Curry's final chance to convince the powers that be that he is the NBA's Most Valuable Player for a third time.

He certainly has a case. But for a variety of reasons, let's just get this out of the way now:

Barring an extended stretch that would seem insane even for Curry, it's just not happening this year.

It's no fault of Curry's own. He's in the midst of arguably his second-best season ever, behind only his unanimous MVP campaign of 2015-16.

That season, Curry averaged 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the field, 45.4 percent from 3-point range and 90.8 percent from the free-throw line.

So far this season, Curry is averaging 28.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest on 48.8 percent shooting from the field, 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and 92.2 percent from the charity stripe. And that's after shooting uncharacteristically poorly over Golden State's final four games before the break.

Curry leads all NBA players in average plus-minus (plus-9.7 points per game). He ranks first among all qualifying players in offensive rating (120.1 points per 100 possessions) and first among all qualifying guards in true shooting percentage (66.0 percent). 

Perhaps nothing clarifies Curry's value quite like his importance to his own team. The Warriors (41-16) hold the best record in the Western Conference, but Golden State is just 5-6 this season in games its star point guard has missed.

 

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Really, the main reason Curry won't win a third MVP this year has nothing to do with him. It has everything to do with who is around him, and who isn't around the other main contenders for the award.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Milwaukee Bucks this season, who just happen to hold the league's best record at 43-14.

James Harden leads the league in scoring, and has totaled at least 30 points in every Houston Rockets game since Dec. 13.

Paul George sits behind Harden and just ahead of Curry with an average of 28.7 points per contest (second in the NBA), and the Oklahoma City Thunder star arguably has been the best two-way player in the NBA this season.

Assuming each of those three players are the most valuable on their respective teams, that would make the Robin to their Batman a combination of Khris Middleton, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, respectively.

Two of those running mates were All-Stars. The one that wasn't -- Paul -- probably would have been if not for missing 22 games because of injury.

Still, none of those guys are Kevin Durant, who was named MVP of the NBA All-Star Game.

Nor do any of Curry's main competitors have a supporting cast with the likes of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins.

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That's not Curry's fault, but to think it won't matter in voters' minds is just being naive. The Warriors don't have the record advantage they've enjoyed in years past, so that's one less argument in his favor. Voters also seem to enjoy "spreading the love," so to speak.

So, yes, barring something insane, Curry almost certainly will have to wait at least another year to add a third MVP trophy to his loaded shelves. Perhaps if the Warriors' roster makeup significantly changes this offseason -- Durant surely will play a role -- he'll have a better shot at it next year.

Then again, if anyone is capable of something insane, it's the guy who became the first person ever to get all the MVP voters to agree on something.