Now Is the Time to Buy Low on Steph Curry’s MVP Odds
Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.
For the first few months of the season, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Steph Curry would win this season’s NBA MVP award.
Curry and the Warriors got off to a blistering start and lit the NBA world on fire with a barrage of 3s and wins. The Warriors were 18-2 as November wrapped up, and Curry was on the cusp of breaking Ray Allen’s career 3-point record. Curry was the odds-on favorite to win MVP at that point.
That’s when things started to go off the rails. Steph entered a home game against Portland 15 treys from tying the record and forced 12 attempts in the first half alone. He was never really in rhythm, and the pursuit of the record seemed to throw Curry off his game and put his shooting into a funk. And so began a months-long slump, one of the worst of Curry’s career, that dropped him down the MVP ladder, and out of the race for some.
But the odds have gone too far the other direction. I still believe Steph Curry is live to win this year’s NBA MVP. With his odds available at +1000 at BetMGM, now is the time to bet on Curry’s MVP odds.
There are three reasons I’m investing in Curry right now.
1. Curry’s Shooting Slump May Finally Be Behind Him
It’s no secret Steph went ice cold for awhile. Starting with that Blazers game, Curry plummeted to 33% from behind the arc over his next 15 games. He shot below 39% from the field and under 50% Effective Field Goal percentage, and the Warriors had a terrible 102 offensive rating with Curry on the court.
The final five games of that stretch were especially ice cold. From January 3-13, Curry scored 18.0 PPG on under 32% from the field, including an ugly 2.0-of-9.0 3s per game, just 22%. Only nine times all season has Curry made two or fewer 3s in a game — and four of those came in that five-game stretch.
That was the nadir of Curry’s season, and it’s no coincidence that the final three games were the start of Draymond Green’s long injury absence.
But that was a month ago, and Steph and the Warriors have adjusted and learned how to play and win without Draymond. On January 18, Klay Thompson had his best game since returning, with 21 points. Since that game, Curry’s numbers have rebounded, and the Warriors are winning again. Golden State is 11-4 after going 11-8 in the long, cold stretch before that.
Let’s look at three 15-game samples from Curry’s season so far: his best stretch of the season, that long shooting slump, and the last 15 games.
Curry’s best 15-game stretch (10/28-11/28):
28.5 PPG, 5.8 3s per game on 43%, 56% 2s, 39% FG
3+ made 3s in all but one game, 6+ made 3s in 9 games
66% True Shooting, 122 Ortg, 12.1 BPM
That 15-game slump (12/8-1/13):
24.2 PPG, 4.1 3s per game on 33%, 49% 2s, 39% FG
6+ made 3s in only 3 games
55% True Shooting, 102 Ortg, 1.8 BPM
Last 15 Warriors games:
24.6 PPG, 4.1 3s per game on 37%, 55% 2s, 44% FG
3+ made 3s in all but 3 games
61% True Shooting, 120 Ortg, 5.6 BPM
See the pattern? Curry’s game is bouncing back since that slump. His 3-point percentage is on the rise, raising his overall efficiency and value to Golden State’s offense. His 2-point percentage is also back up after that anomalous dip, and he’s back to making at least three 3s almost every night. Don’t think that matters? The Warriors are 31-7 this season when Steph hits at least four treys; they’re 11-10 in their other games.
Notice the big swing in Box Plus-Minus too, Basketball Reference’s all-in-one stat. That great 15-game stretch saw a 12.1 BPM, which would be one of the highest ever over a single season. The slump saw just a 1.8 BPM, a number that would make Curry a non-All-Star, something like an above average role player. By BPM, it was Curry’s worst 15-game stretch since before his first MVP. But over these last 15 Warriors games, Curry is back to 5.6 BPM, which would rank eighth-best over this full season.
Last night in Los Angeles, Curry scored 16 points in the first eight minutes, including a trio of 3s in under a minute. He finished with eight 3s, his most since before Christmas.
Curry and the Warriors offense are clicking again now that Steph has shaken his shooting slump, and Klay Thompson has re-assimilated to the offense. And it will only get better once Draymond returns, too.
Curry is back, but I’m not sure the books have caught on just yet.
2. Curry’s MVP Odds Don’t Make Sense vs. Other Warriors Odds
There’s a weird Warriors dissonance happening around sportsbooks right now. They all seem to agree that Curry has dropped out of the MVP favorites. He’s outside the top three at every major book, and by a decent margin. But the books haven’t given up on the Warriors yet.
Just take a look around.
At BetRivers, the Warriors are +300 to win the Pacific Division. That’s effectively +300 to finish with the best record in the entire NBA since it means passing the Phoenix Suns. And if the Warriors pass the Suns and finish with the league’s best record, do you really think Curry wouldn’t win MVP?
Even at other books, the Warriors are around +600 or +700 to pass the Suns and win the division. Is there any scenario where the Warriors have the best record in the league and Curry doesn’t win MVP? I don’t see it. So why is Steph +1000?
There are other breadcrumbs. The Warriors are still considered favorites or co-favorites to come out of the West at most books. They’re among the title favorites at every major book and are outright favorites at FanDuel, BetMGM, and PointsBet. These books obviously aren’t that worried that the Warriors are cooked, so why should Curry’s MVP case be?
Maybe you’re worried about Draymond Green returning to health in time for the Warriors to finish strong. But Green is still a co-favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year at every major book, which means the books aren’t too worried about a further prolonged absence.
Reading between the tea leaves, the books expect Draymond to be back soon and look his usual self, and they expect the Warriors to be one of the best teams in the league the rest of the way, like they have been all season.
Steph Curry is by far the best player on a team the books are telling us is still one of the best in the league. So, why again can’t he win MVP?
3. Curry Still Fits the Typical Historical MVP Voting Pattern
If you look back at NBA MVP voting over the years, an obvious pattern emerges. Voters consistently give their vote to the candidate that fits the best-player-on-the-best-team criteria above all else.
It’s not always THE best team. Sometimes that team has a pair of candidates splitting the vote or is considered a team effort without an MVP — the Suns fall into both categories. Other times, the team is too talented, like the Durant Warriors. But in a majority of NBA seasons, MVP goes to a player on a top-two seed who was by far the best on his team.
The Suns won’t have that. The media is split on whether Chris Paul or Devin Booker is more valuable, and neither has the metrics to make a serious run. DeMar DeRozan is a candidate for the Bulls, but that’s another spot where it’s more of a team effort, while many wonder if Zach LaVine is the better Chicago player. Jimmy Butler is having an MVP-caliber season for the one-seed Heat but missed too much time. Ditto Kevin Durant, though his value as the Nets keep losing is pretty clear.
Consider the three leading MVP candidates.
Nikola Jokic has had the best individual season, but the Nuggets are the six-seed. Even if Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. return soon, Denver is 9.5 games back from the Warriors — too far. If Jokic wins, it won’t be because of wins or “best team” criteria. The Sixers are 2.5 games back in the East. But if they make a run now, James Harden will get part of Embiid’s credit — not to mention Embiid has to stay healthy two more months.
Our most likely best-player-best-team candidate other than Curry is still Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is why I backed him before the season. But the Bucks are the five-seed right now, are short two starters for the foreseeable future, and don’t seem to have any designs on pushing themselves until the playoffs. Maybe that changes out of the break, but right now there’s little 1-seed momentum or Giannis MVP narrative.
Curry has plenty of narrative.
The Warriors have been one of the stories of the season with another huge Steph season, a defensive renaissance under a rejuvenated Draymond Green, and the return of Klay Thompson.
And lest you worry the media will forget about Steph, we’re about to get all the Warriors we can handle: 12 of Golden State’s final 24 games are nationally televised, so Curry will have myriad chances for statement MVP performances while every voter watches. That includes five straight national TV games at the start of March, just in time for Draymond to be back and the Warriors to remind everyone they’re the Warriors again.
That doesn’t mean Curry is the MVP favorite again. There are three other deserving candidates now, and there’s work to be done. But Curry is still very live to win MVP with a strong 25-game finish, and that’s why now is the time to grab Steph’s MVP odds at +1000 before they’re gone for good.
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