Making a case from the bench

This past week saw Steph Curry take on a new role for the Golden State Warriors. A spot on the bench. Curry missed back-to-back games for the Dubs due to a lower leg injury. He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Nuggets.

Stephen_CurryIn the two games that Curry has missed so far, the Warriors have struggled. First came a blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks in which Dallas shot over 50 percent from the field while Golden State only hit 40.7 percent of their shots. The next was a narrow win over the Rockets where the Warriors were sloppy with the ball, turning it over 18 times.

There is no doubt that the Warriors are worse off with Curry on the bench but this raises an interesting question. Does this solidify Curry as the league’s MVP yet again? It seems a bit crazy but it actually makes some sense.

Peyton_ManningThis type of idea originated for the first time for me when it came the 2011 NFL season. Peyton Manning missed the entire season due to an offseason neck surgery. The Colts went from a 10-6 playoff team in 2010 to a 2-14 debacle in 2012. It made many people wonder just how valuable Peyton was to Indianapolis if his absence could make that much of a difference.

Obviously, this is not the same scenario and no one actually voted for Manning as the MVP for that season but it still presented the idea. The reason why it could genuinely work in Curry’s favor is because he has actually played during the season and is not expected to miss an extend run of games.

Stephen_Curry2Curry has already made a pretty good case to be the league’s MVP again. He leads the NBA in points per game by a decent margin and is second in shooting percentage among guards. He has chipped in a healthy 6.4 assists per night and fourth in thefts per game. He has the best box plus/minus rating and the highest number of win shares in the league this season. Not to mention that the Warriors have only lost one game that Curry started.

His absence underlined how important he is to the team. There are some noticeable changes to the Warriors game without Curry. When Curry starts, Golden State scores 114.8 points per game. Without him, the Dubs averaged only 102.5. Their three-point shooting and overall shooting dropped off. It became apparent very quickly that no matter how deep the Warriors seem, they need their leader on the court to be a contender.

Yes it is a very small sample size and it is clear that Golden State is a good team even without Curry. I really think that missing those two games strengthened his campaign for a second consecutive MVP award. He showed his true value as the most important piece on the league’s best team.

Should a player be named MVP because of the drop off his team suffers when he doesn’t play? Maybe not in the case of Peyton Manning back in 2011, but I think in the case of Curry in 2016, it helps. The award is not designed for the league’s best player, but it’s most valuable one. His value was underlined in those two games.

Does this mean that Curry has locked up the MVP race? Absolutely not, but I think he just strengthened his resume by spending two nights in late December sitting on the bench.


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