Is 2021-22 the best version of Stephen Curry? Comparing numbers and 3-point records with MVP years

Is 2021-22 the best version of Stephen Curry? Comparing numbers and 3-point records with MVP years


Stephen Curry, already widely considered the greatest shooter in NBA history, ceases to amaze night after night on the NBA floor.

An explosive start to the season, individually and as a team, Curry’s legacy continues to grow. If it weren’t for Kevin Durant, no one would doubt that Curry is the MVP but even considering KD, the Warriors superstar seems to have a clear advantage. 

Given his level of play, this question is valid: Are we witnessing the best version of Stephen Curry?

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The fact that this is discussion can even be brought up is a testament to the greatness we have seen from Curry so far this season. And although it would be difficult to answer the question above after only one quarter of the season, it is possible to compare his stats. 

How does this Stephen Curry compare against the one from his unanimous MVP season or his first MVP season? Let’s take a look.

Statistical comparison

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Curry through first 20 games of MVP years and 2021-22 season
Season PTS REB AST FG% 3PM 3P% TS% Record
2014-15 23.1 5.1 7.7 48.8 59 39.6 62.8 18-2
2015-16 32.0 5.1 6.0 52.4 102 45.9 70.0 20-0
2021-22 27.8 5.7 6.6 45.2 108 41.2 62.7 17-3

From the above numbers, a couple of things are clear about the current version:

  • It far surpasses that of the first MVP year in 2014-15.
  • It goes head-to-head with the unanimous MVP season in 2015-16.

During the 2015-16 season, his points tally stood at 640 (compared to 556) at an efficiency of 52.4 percent (compared to 45.1 percent). In the current season, although he is scoring lesser at a lower efficiency compared to the 2015-16 season, he’s knocking down more 3-pointers and grabbing more rebounds.

Recently, he broke his own record for the least number of games required to reach 100 3-pointers.

His 105 3-pointers exceed his mark of 102 and 101 he set in the 2015-16 and 2018-19 seasons through 20 games, respectively,  as per Stathead. Now, let’s get to the team record. 

The 17-3 start falls short in comparison to the 18-2 start in 2014-15 and the 20-0 start in 2015-16 season. In fact, in the latter campaign, the Warriors began the season with a 24-0 start and eventually set the best record in NBA history 73-9. Does this mean the 2015-16 season gets the edge here? What could be but a small omen for the San Francisco franchise is that in both MVP years, they made it to the NBA Finals, taking home the championship in 2015.

3-pointers made and projection

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Curry’s 3-point shooting in the first 20 games of his season
Season 3-pointers 3P% Total triples for season Final 3P%
2009-10 22 37.9 166 43.7
2010-11 34 43.6 151 44.2
2011-12 (**) 49 45.4 55 45.5
2012-13 54 42.5 272* 45.3
2013-14 68 42.2 261* 42.4
2014-15 59 39.6 286* 44.3
2015-16 102 45.9 402* 45.4
2016-17 84 42.4 324* 41.1
2017-18 70 36.8 212 42.3
2018-19 101 47.4 354 43.7
2019-20 (***) 12 24.5 12 24.5
2020-21 89 40.8 337* 42.1
2021-22 108 41.2 ? ?

(*) Led the NBA in the season | (**) Played 26 games due to injuries | (***) Played 5 games due to injuries

  • Considering the first 20 games of the 2021-22 season, Curry is well on track to break his NBA record of 402 3-pointers for a single season, a mark he set during his unanimous MVP season. Going by his current season’s average, he’s projected to make around 437 if he plays all of the remaining games (81 for the season).
  • Is that realistic? Barring his two injury-impacted seasons, Curry has played an average of 73 games in the past and the projection for those many games is at 394 3-pointers.

Final averages for MVP seasons

  • 2014-15: 23.8 points (48.7 FG%, 44.3 3P%), 4.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals in 32.7 minutes in 80 GP (final record of 67- 5, 81.7%)
  • 2015-16: 30.1 points (50.4 FG%, 45.4 3P%), 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.1 steals in 34.2 minutes in 79 GP (final record of 73- 9, 89.0%)
  • 2021-22: 27.8 points (45.2 FG%, 41.2 3P%), 5.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals in 34.3 minutes in 20 GP (team’s record of 18-3, 85.7%)

Date, records and records

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  • In the 2021-22 season, Curry is following a similar path to his unanimous year – a game of at least 50 points (53 in 2015 vs. New Orleans, 50 in 2021 vs. Atlanta) and four in total with at least 40 points. 
  • With four games of at least nine 3-pointers (through the first 15 games), Curry has accumulated 38 for his career which is the best all-time by a long margin. The next-best is nine, jointly held by James Harden and Damian Lillard. Furthermore, he has more games with at least 3-pointers than the next six on the list combined. 
  • Curry is on his way to breaking Allen’s all-time 3-pointer record. Through 20 games, he’s 34 away from Allen’s NBA record of 2,973 career regular-season 3-pointers. Curry is already the all-time leader for 3-pointers made in the postseason. 
  • Curry has accumulated at least 145 games with at least one 3-pointer, the second-longest streak in NBA history which only trails his own record of 157. You have to rewind back to Nov. 8, 2018 to find the last game that he didn’t make a 3-pointer.
  • It’s not just about the scoring. Curry, so far, has recorded five games with at least 10 assists through his first 15 games. In his unanimous MVP season, he only had one double-digit assist game in the beginning whereas, he had four during the 2014-15 season. 
  • And rebounds too. Curry has recorded two double-digit rebound games through the first 15 games of the 2021-22 season, one of them part of a triple-double. In his two MVP seasons, he had two double-digit rebound games combined in his first 15 games.
  • The ridiculous nature of his 3-point shooting is defined by his efficiency. He has remained upwards of 40 percent despite his attempts skyrocketing through the first 20 games – 149 attempts in 2014-15, 222 in 2015-16, 262 in 2021-22. 

Team record

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This is where the current version of Curry gets the advantage despite the fact that during his unanimous season, he led his team to the league’s all-time best record of 73-9. 

There are a few common denominators across these three Curry seasons from a team standpoint – Steve Kerr as a coach, Draymond Green as a defensive pillar and Andre Iguodala as the experienced veteran off the bench. Having said that, there are two substantial differences. 

Iguodala shined in those early years. In fact, he was Finals MVP in 2015, while now he plays the role of a limited-minutes veteran off the bench whose mark is made more for his impact in the locker room. The other? Klay Thompson was healthy and had his first two All-Star selections at that time, while now he is awaiting his return after more than two years of rehab.

There are certain similarities. Harrison Barnes was the face of non-Big 3 players on those teams while in 2021, it’s Andrew Wiggins. The Canadian’s role grows in the current team along with the emergence of Jordan Poole, which has helped the team deal with the absence of Thompson. 

The rest of the supporting cast is different but like the other seasons, these young players also understand their role and maximize it. Back then, it was Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa and a small stretch of David Lee as the most recognized faces. Right now, it’s Kevon Looney, Damion Lee, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Gary Payton II.

In both cases, there has been a solid mix of experience and youth. At the time, the Big 3 core was entering its age from 25-27 and the veterans were the role players. Six years later, the Big 3 have grown in age but have not dipped in performance while most of the supporting cast is under 30 (Poole is 22 years, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody are 19).

What do the betting odds say? 

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With Fanduel as a reference, here’s a look at what betting pundits are saying about the MVP race. 

  • At the beginning of 2021-22: +800 to win MVP. Curry shared third place along with Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, behind Joel Embiid (+700) and Luka Doncic, who was the favorite at +200.

  • Currently: +150 to win MVP. Yes, Steph jumped to the top of the betting list, with Durant in second place (+500), and Giannis (+700) and Jokic (+1300) behind him.

  • At the beginning of 2014-2015: +4000 to win MVP. Yes, the odds were not with him before the start, but boy did the gamblers who got ahead of the end-result do damage.

  • At the beginning of 2015-2016: +650 to win MVP. Safe bet, right?





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.