Finals MVP Ranking: Stephen Curry Could Win Even If Warriors Lose; Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown neck and neck
With the 2022 NBA Finals tied 2-2 back in San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday, it’s a good time to learn about the always fun Finals MVP race. If the Golden State Warriors win, Stephen Curry is a lock. As we’ll discuss, he has a strong case so far to win the award even if the Warriors lose the series. On the side of the Boston Celtics, it’s a tight game right now between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
After that, I won’t bother with anyone else’s consideration. One of those three guys is going to win Finals MVP. Through four games, here’s how I see the standings plummeting.
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Curry is the favorite because Golden State, at least on paper, is in a better position to win the championship as things stand, having regained home-court advantage in what has become a three-game series.
If the Warriors fail, there is precedent for a player from the losing team to win the Finals MVP. Jerry West received the honor in 1969 when his Lakers lost in seven games to the Celtics. More recently, if ever a player on a losing team was to win Finals MVP, it would and probably should have been LeBron James in 2015, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8, 8 assists in Cleveland’s loss. in Golden State.
We know who won the Finals MVP of this 2015 series: Andre Iguodala. This remains hotly debated, with Iguodala himself recently declaring he deserved the award over Stephen Curry, who, despite tough games by his standards, averaged 26-6-5 and created much of the space in which Iguodala and others have thrived. .
This year, Curry, whose lack of Finals MVP on an otherwise Mt. Rushmore-worthy resume was killed hot, leaves no doubt. Again, if the Warriors win this series, he has the material in the bag. Nobody else has a chance. The question is: Should Curry win the award even if the Warriors lose the series?
Understand, there is a long way to go. If Curry lays an egg or two down the stretch in this series, he won’t win. He will have to continue on his current torrid rhythm until the end. This is how it should be. For a losing player to win the title of MVP, the gap must be so wide that it is overwhelming.
So far, it is. No one in this series has been as good as Curry, who is currently averaging 34.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and two steals on 50% shooting. Dude shoots 49% 3 on a tick on 12 attempts per game. If they continued, these figures would lead him into the most select historical society.
With 25 triples made so far, Curry is the first player in history to land at least five 3s in four consecutive Finals games. Coming off his 43-point masterpiece in Game 4, he’s also one of three point guards to ever put together a 40-point/10-rebound finish line, joining Magic Johnson and the aforementioned West.
Considering the all-time defense he’s up against and the lack of help he’s getting from his own team, what Curry is doing right now is superhuman. The Celtics are a better team than the Warriors. They are bigger, stronger, faster. They have a better defense. They have two top scorers against Golden State’s. None of their formations have to compromise offense for defense, or vice versa, while Golden State somehow fixes at least one glaring hole every second of this series.
Draymond Green is borderline unplayable right now. Klay Thompson is shooting 35%. If you still see this Warriors team through the lens of what it was, get your eyes checked. These are not the old warriors. It is, however, the same old Curry, who is literally the only card Golden State has to play. And so far he almost single-handedly keeps them in his hand.
That’s exactly what James did in 2015 without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. LeBron had this Cavaliers team starting Mathew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson leading 2-1 on a 67-win Warriors team. He wasn’t as effective as Curry has been in this series. Not even close. But he was the best player in that one-mile series and he didn’t win the award. Some people would say if LeBron didn’t get it then, Curry can’t get it now.
I don’t know if I am one of those people. My instinct is that I feel a little strange about a player on the losing team winning Finals MVP, though I generally despise arguments that rely on the wobbly old leg of traditionalism. I do not know why. It’s just weird. But if LeBron had won in 2015, I think I would feel good. West’s precedent was set a decade before I was born. I can’t weigh in on this discussion with any level of intelligence.
For me, LeBron should have been the one who set the modern precedent in 2015. But my colleague Sam Quinn challenged me in our chat room to answer a simple question: why should one person tell another? ? As Sam claimed, it’s akin to the argument that a baseball player can’t be unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame because Babe Ruth or Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle wasn’t. .
So they were wrong. Obviously. Why must we continue to deceive ourselves? Baseball voters finally broke their stupid code when Mariano Rivera got 100% of the vote in 2019.
People said the same thing about Curry winning the 2015-16 regular season MVP by unanimous vote. How can this happen when Michael Freaking Jordan has never been unanimous? Again, two wrongs do not make a right. There was no other justifiable choice to win the 2015-16 MVP than Curry. They understood.
So again, if he continues on this current pace and the Warriors lose the series, Curry will definitely have a record to win his first Finals MVP. Will he? I do not know. Tradition is hard to break. And again, for me personally, I don’t know exactly how I would feel about that. It doesn’t matter how I feel, of course. Only the sentiment of the voters counts. I know this: If all the Boston players stand up there in their championship hats and shirts and announce Curry as MVP, it’s going to set off one hell of a firestorm on Twitter.
2. Jayson Tatum
Again, if Boston wins the series and Curry doesn’t break modern precedent, that’s a very slim margin between Tatum and Brown right now. Nearly impossible, they’ve both averaged exactly 22.3 points and 7.0 assists so far in the series. Brown’s scoring was much more effective than Tatum’s, but I’m still leaning towards Tatum because of the play. His 7.8 assists per game is twice Brown’s output.
In total, going into Game 4 Tatum was responsible for 45% of Boston’s offense via scoring or assist. Tatum is the one championed as the superstar, and Brown, if we split hairs, takes advantage of the secondary creative opportunities provided by Tatum’s gravity. Tatum’s finishing issues near the edge reappear, but he hits 45% of his 3s in this series.
3. Jaylen Brown
For me, Brown has felt like Boston’s best player so far, in some ways like Iguodala felt like Golden State’s best player in 2015. You really have to factor in the superstar burden — with Tatum being the Curry of 2015 — to let the inefficiency slide and really enjoy the overall impact of the guy driving the bus, as Charles Barkley likes to say.
But Brown was great. No question. His game, while not on the level of Tatum, has been significant, and it’s not like he doesn’t create a lot of his own offense. He notably beat Draymond Green several times for one-on-one buckets in Game 4. Brown and Tatum play their usually terrific defense.
This is the race that is far from over. Again, if Golden State wins, Curry is a lock. For Boston, these next two or three games will decide the MVP debate between Tatum and Brown. If the Celtics are successful, it will still be tough a week from now because both Tatum and Brown will have played well throughout this series as they lead Boston to the trophy they really care about.