If the Warriors hope to return to NBA title contention during the 2020-21 NBA season, they are going to need Steph Curry to play at an MVP level.
With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson expected to miss a second straight season due to injury, all the offensive focus for the Warriors will be on Curry. After all, he is the system, and that will be even more evident this season, which gets underway Tuesday.
But can Curry actually win his third MVP, five seasons after winning his last one? ESPN color commentator Jeff Van Gundy believes so.
"You know who I think has an outside shot, and I didn't mention it yesterday when I was talking about the MVP, is Steph Curry," Van Gundy said Friday night during the preseason game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. "Steph Curry, because of their injuries, he's going to have an opportunity to put up huge numbers. Now, I'm not sure Golden State is good enough to win enough for him to be in that conversation, but I think Steph Curry is going to bounce back with an incredible year."
If the Warriors' three preseason games are any indication, Curry will be a high usage player for them this season. After a subpar 10-point performance against the Denver Nuggets in his first game in nine months, Curry dropped in back-to-back 29-point efforts against the Kings.
In those two games, Curry took a combined 26 3-pointers and made 11 of them. With Thompson out, it's safe to assume that Curry will bomb away from long distance. If he averaged 15 3-point attempts per game, Curry could put up gaudy stats and potentially even lead the NBA in scoring.
But leading the league in scoring doesn't guarantee a player will win MVP. Just ask embattled Houston Rockets star James Harden, who led the league by almost four full points last season, yet didn't receive a single first-place MVP vote.
Van Gundy is right. The Warriors have to win in order for him to get any consideration for MVP. But if Golden State does return to the top of the NBA mountain, it largely will be because of Curry. That naturally would generate MVP buzz for him, no matter what numbers he's putting up.
As much as Curry would like to win a third NBA MVP, he would much rather have a fourth NBA championship.
Either of those accomplishments this season would silence Curry's doubters and detractors.