While the NBA certainly had a parity-filled 2018, 2019 could be a different story. We still have every team in the West sans Phoenix competing for a playoff spot. But we are quickly approaching the NBA trade deadline and the buyout period. This when NBA teams will start to make their moves, whether it be dumping salary or adding a valuable rotation piece to boost playoff hopes.
And as teams start to fill out their rosters, we will start to see the back-end of the NBA draft lottery standings take shape. Squads like the Nets and Kings are close to ending playoff droughts but a few moves could heavily determine if they will be headed back to the draft lottery.
The MVP race has also been extremely close for most of the season, with several candidates looking like serious contenders. But with Giannis Antetokounmpo attacking the rim with aplomb, Kawhi Leonard achieving a career-high in points (45) and James Harden literally carrying the Rockets to wins every night, the MVP race is starting to clear up as well.
But there is one name—that has less than a 5 percent chance to win MVP according to Basketball-Reference's 2018-19 MVP Award Tracker—to watch this week specifically, and that is none other than two-time MVP Stephen Curry.
Steph has played in less games than all the other MVP candidates, so he is fighting an uphill battle. And the fact that he is just barely leading his team in scoring because of the presence of Kevin Durant does not help him. But storylines rule all when it comes to NBA MVP races, and the narrative of the Warriors looking more vulnerable than usual can get flipped quickly if Curry goes supernova.
In the Dubs win over the Suns on New Year's Eve, Curry poured in 34 points on a hyper-efficient 64 percent shooting from the field to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. And that night—just like so many others this season—showed that Curry is just as good as he was during his back-to-back MVP seasons, and that he is clearly the most important player on this team.
The Rockets and Warriors play on Thursday at Oracle Arena. The showdown will be huge as a matchup between several MVP hopefuls (if you throw in Durant). And between Harden's play as of late and the fact that the Warriors got blown out by Houston in their only other matchup so far this year, you can definitely expect to see both squads—and Curry specifically—get off to a quick start.
That game is just one of many this week that will go a long way towards painting a better picture of the NBA's hierarchy. Check out our latest update in the NBA Power Rankings right here.