Column: The case for Steph Curry as the NBA's Most Improved Player

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry lobbies for possession in front of San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

We are a little more than half way through this NBA season and I don’t know if there has ever been a MVP race that has been pretty much decided at this point in the season.

Right now, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors is terrorizing the NBA. He’s leading the league in scoring with 29.8 points per game. He’s grabbing 5.3 rebounds and dishing out 6.4 assists per game. He is the best player on a team that is 41 games over .500 45 games into the season.

Each time I watched Curry play, he does something new and unthinkable. It’s gotten to the point where words can’t describe the things he is doing.

I’m not entirely certain he is human. Without a doubt, he is the frontrunner (by a wide margin) for league MVP this season.

There is another award that he might collect at the end of the year if he keeps putting up the numbers he is now: the Most Improved Player award.

There is a legitimate chance that he could win the Most Valuable Player and the Most Improved Player. The award typically doesn’t work like this, however. Typically, the Most Improved award goes to a player that maybe didn’t receive a lot of playing time, but now has found a starting spot on a NBA roster. See C.J. McCollum this season.

Or it is given to a guy who just sky rockets on the offensive end, including points and shooting percentage. See Jimmy Butler last season.

So here is the case for Steph Curry for Most Improved this year.

Last season, Curry averaged 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. He shot 49 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range and 91 percent from the free-throw line.

Somehow his numbers are better this season.

This season, Curry is averaging 29.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game. He is shooting 51 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 91 percent from the free-throw line.

Curry made 286 threes last year. This year he has already made 232 with still 33 games to play. He scored 1,900 points last year. This year he already has 1,402.

Are we sure he’s human? I ask that kiddingly (kind of), of course.

His assists are down just a touch, partly because he is shooting more this season. His turnovers per game are nearly the same.

He’s also producing those numbers all of this while playing 33.7 minutes per game. To put that into perspective, Jimmy Butler plays 38.3 minutes per game, James Harden plays 37.3, Kevin Durant plays 36 and LeBron James plays 35.9. All those guys play more minutes but their numbers aren’t nearly as good as Curry’s.

Curry has sat out in the fourth quarter more than 10 fourth quarters this season because of how dominant the Warriors have been.

Watching him on Wednesday night against the Wizards made me realize actually how much better he is this year compared to last year. He scored 51 points (19 of 28 shooting, 11 of 16 from three) and added seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. For God’s sake he made seven threes in the first quarter and scored 25 points.

Will Curry win Most Improved this year? Probably not. Especially if the voters choose him as league MVP, they probably won’t vote for him as Most Improved.

It will probably go to a guy like McCollum or Andre Drummond, who have really come into their own this season.

Will Curry continue to put up these staggering numbers as the season progresses? Who knows? But right now, a legitimate case can be made for Steph Curry as the leagues Most Improved Player.


Matt Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @Matt_Zamp.