As the best player on the NBA’s best team last season, Stephen Curry was named the league MVP in one of the most competitive races in recent memory. Through five games of the 2015-2016 season, the Golden State Warriors point guard is playing at a level that's almost never been matched, and he’s the leading candidate to win the award in the early part of the season.
The season is still very young, but Curry has been even better than he was last year. The 27-year-old is off to an historical start. He’s averaging 35.8 points on just 20.2 field-goal attempts per game, shooting 57.4 percent from the floor and 94.6 percent from the free-throw line.
In his seventh NBA season, Curry is making a case to be recognized as the best pure shooter of all time. Attempting nearly 11 three-pointers per contest, Curry is shooting an astonishing 51.9 percent from behind the arc. In order to fall below the league average of 33.3 percent, Curry would have to miss 31 consecutive shots from three-point range.
Curry is also averaging 5.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. His 32.0 minutes per game is his lowest average since the 2011-2012 season.
Steph Curry has scored 179 points so far this season. Only Michael Jordan has scored more points through 5 games over the last 30 seasons.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 5, 2015
While Curry is piling up his individual stats, the Warriors have showed few signs they have slipped from last season. Starting the season with five games against playoff teams from last season, the Warriors are one of two undefeated NBA teams. Golden State’s first four wins all came by at least 16 points, including a 50-point drubbing of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Curry didn’t begin the season as the favorite to repeat as MVP, and he’s playing like he has something to prove. The guard dropped 93 points in two games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis, who entered the season with better MVP odds than Curry. Against the Houston Rockets and James Harden, Curry was much better than the player voted by his peers as last season's MVP. Curry posted 25 points, seven rebounds, six assists and just one turnover, taking just 15 shots in 27 minutes.
Even if he does go on to win the MVP award, Curry’s current pace isn’t sustainable. He averaged 23.8 points with shooting percentages of 48.7/44.3/91.4 last season. Only four players in NBA history have shot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line while scoring at least 12 points per game.
Four players standout as Curry’s biggest competition. Harden, Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook will all be in contention after finishing in the top five of voting last year. Westbrook and teammate Kevin Durant have been especially impressive in the early going, ranking second and third in scoring, respectively, behind Curry.
Los Angeles Clippers’ stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul should also receive some MVP consideration. L.A. is the only team that has given Golden State any trouble, but they still lost to the Warriors on Wednesday night, 112-108. After the win, Curry said the Warriors are "better than we were last year."
Interim head coach Luke Walton wasn't shy about giving credit to his explosive playmaker.
"When we really needed him most, he stepped up for us and he made huge plays shooting deep threes with people draped all over him," Walton said after the win over the Clippers. "He's a winner. He showed why he's MVP of the league."
Sportsbook.ag has Curry listed as the MVP favorite with +140 betting odds. He’s followed by James (+500), Davis (+1000), Durant (+1000) and Westbrook (+1000).