Should Stephen Curry Be the 2022 NBA Finals MVP Even If the Warriors Lose? | Bleacher Report -

Should Stephen Curry Be the 2022 NBA Finals MVP Even If the Warriors Lose? | Bleacher Report

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Stephen Curry never needed to win the 2022 NBA Finals MVP. Not for his legacy, not to prove his transcendence independent of Kevin Durant, not even to placate or silence the talking heads and engagement soldiers who insisted, or at least contemplated, that he did.

And yet, while he may not need it, he’s on track to win it anyway.

Perhaps no matter what.

Guaranteeing a Finals MVP for Steph at this stage goes a smidge too far. The series is tied at two games apiece after the Golden State Warriors’ 107-97 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Nearly half the NBA Finals could be left to play if these two teams deliver a Game 7 this championship bout so clearly deserves. That’s plenty of time for alternative candidates to seize the reins, for other narratives to form.

Dancing around a declaration in Curry’s favor, though, is well within reason—and not at all an overreaction to his Game 4 masterpiece.

Sure, his latest detonation is part of the bigger picture. He pumped in 43 points, his second-most in a Finals game, on just 26 shots, all while playing through an injured left foot and ankle. This was an all-time performance, from an all-time player, both anecdotally:

Connor Letourneau @Con_Chron

Asked where he’d put tonight’s performance on the list of great Stephen Curry Finals performances, Klay Thompson said, “I think probably No. 1. This was nearly a must-win game. …. Steph played incredible.”

And quite literally:

For as singular as this eruption seems, however, it is merely an extension of Steph’s entire 2022 Finals portfolio—the absolute zenith of it, to be sure, but still closer to his default.

Through four games, Curry is averaging 34.3 points on a sweltering 66.4 true shooting, including a somehow-not-a-typo 49.1 percent clip amid mega-high volume from three. This is not just him going kaboom yet again. This is a coupling of scoring volume and efficiency the likes of which the NBA Finals has almost never seen:

Dan Favale @danfavale

players to total 125+ pts with a 65+ ts% through the first four games of the nba finals (via <a href=””>@stathead</a>, since 1983):<br><br>— kevin durant, 2017 (137 pts, 66.2 ts%<br><br>— steph curry, 2022 (137 pts, 66.4 ts%)<br><br>the end <a href=””></a>

Skeptics will point to how the Celtics have essentially invited Steph’s explosions by spending so much time in drop coverage or without throwing extra bodies at him—a defensive design that has been widely panned but serves the purpose of repressing other elements of the Warriors offense, as Indy Cornrows’ Caitlin Cooper so astutely observed.

But these shots Boston is surrendering still have to go in, and its approach to guarding Curry says more about the rest of Golden State than the two-time regular-season MVP himself.

More importantly, it would be inaccurate to claim Steph’s production has come easily, let alone been gifted. Over 68.1 percent of his made field goals have gone unassisted (including 64 percent of his threes), a stark increase from his 56.6 percent share through the previous rounds (41.7 percent on threes), as well as his 52.3 percent mark during the regular season (42.8 percent on threes).

Curry has needed to ratchet up his shot creation even further in the fourth quarter, borne entirely out of necessity. That he’s maintained will-the-mothership-ever-call-him-home efficiency amid this burden of self-dependence is unreal. And with each passing hang-it-in-the-Louvre display, the Warriors come to rely on Steph’s individualism when it matters most even more, while the Celtics are invited, if not outright forced, to overreact.

Just as Golden State has increasingly abandoned any pretense that anyone else will finish its half-court possessions, Boston showed a willingness to deviate from the script more often in the final frame of Game 4. The Celtics threw more bodies at Steph, an adjustment that opened up previously unavailable decision-making opportunities for the Warriors at large.

Caitlin Cooper @C2_Cooper

also amazing how other things instantly open up when the celtics don’t drop <a href=””></a>

This, in many ways, encapsulates the dilemma that is Stephen Curry. He is so utterly unsolvable that he doesn’t coax teams into impromptu, perhaps unsettling, change and adaptation so much as he incites panic and total overhaul, planned or otherwise.

The very idea of Steph is in itself among the NBA’s most effective offensive weapons. Teams are so preoccupied tracking his whereabouts—and relentless motion—away from the ball that it consumes, then bends, then ultimately breaks their defense.

It is a magnetic pull unlike any other, ever, and it will never unfold in vain.

This series only reinforces the overarching value Steph injects on his own. The Warriors’ offensive rating plummets by 25.9 points per 100 possessions without him on the floor, a nuclear swing that not just leads Golden State but is the largest of the series among every player who’s logged at least five minutes.

There would be a certain futility in laying out this case if Golden State was assured of winning this series. It’s not. The inconsistent play of Steph’s supporting cast, most notably Draymond Green, leaves the team very much in the lurch. Boston feels deeper, and at times more top-heavy, and is without question more athletic. The Warriors fumbled a monumental opportunity in Game 1, suggesting they’re at the mercy of themselves, yet their absolute offensive dependence on one player makes it seem like they’re the ones operating on borrowed time.

claire de lune @ClaireMPLS

one team is the better team and the other team has the best player in the series

All of which begs the question: In the very possible event Golden State loses, is Steph still the Finals MVP?

The answer will be a matter of course. Again: There’s a ton of basketball left to play. But the hypothetical feat is a gargantuan ask.

Jerry West remains the only player to be awarded the Finals MVP as a member of the losing team, a distinction he earned all the way back in 1969. Giving the Bill Russell Trophy to someone not also being crowned a champion has a stigma attached to it. LeBron James is the most recent player to flirt with the prospect, in 2015, and voters seemingly traveled great lengths not to give it to him by awarding it instead to Andre Iguodala. (Steph should’ve received that one, but I digress…)

Winning Finals MVP while on the losing team is hard enough when you’re very clearly the best player in the series. It’s infinitely more difficult when the winning side offers viable alternatives.

Jaylen Brown has leveled up his offensive aggression, both as a scorer (22.3 points) and playmaker (3.8 assists) while capably guarding Klay Thompson and Green.

Steve Jones Jr. @stevejones20

what on earth is wrong with jaylen brown <a href=””></a>

Jayson Tatum cannot hit a two to save his life and is too often forcing the action inside the arc. But his playmaking in response to the Warriors’ over-helping has been instrumental for most of the series. Al Horford, Marcus Smart and even Robert Williams III could all garner 11th-hour consideration depending on how the rest of the Finals go.

Tack on Steph’s “struggles” in the fourth quarter prior to Game 4, and this race, much like the series, is very much up in the air. There’s enough time left for seemingly anything to happen.

So far, though, Steph’s offensive dominance amid the Warriors’ avalanche of inconsistency stands out the most. Buoying his chances thanks to a more erratic supporting cast might seem imperfect. Why potentially penalize a championship team for having a more bankable supporting cast?

That’s not the point. There can be multiple deserving candidates. There can even be more than one right answer.

But at its core, Finals MVP is an individual honor. And Steph’s dominance, to date, is as singular as it gets—a lifeline performance worthy of Finals MVP, regardless of how the series ends.

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Spotrac.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math’s Adam Fromal.

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