NBA Finals MVP Rankings: Steph Curry Could Win Even If the Warriors Lose; Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown Neck and Neck


 NBA Finals MVP Rankings: Steph Curry Could Win Even If the Warriors Lose;  Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown Neck and Neck

With the 2022 NBA Finals tied 2-2 returning to San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday, it’s a good time to catch the always entertaining Finals MVP race. If the Golden State Warriors win, Stephen Curry is a lock. So far, as we’ll discuss, even if the Warriors lose the series, he’s made a good case for winning the award. On the Boston Celtics side, it’s a tight draw between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the moment.

After that, I won’t worry about being considerate of others. One of those three guys will win Finals MVP. After four games, I see the breakdown of the leaderboard as follows.

1. Stephen Curry

Curry is the favorite because, on paper at least, Golden State is in a better position as of today to win the championship after reclaiming home field advantage in a three-game streak.

Should the Warriors fall short, there is precedent for a player from the losing team to win Finals MVP. Jerry West received the honor in 1969 when his Lakers lost to the Celtics in seven games. If ever a player from a losing team was to become a Finals MVP in more recent times, it would have been, and probably should have been, LeBron James in 2015, when he averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 in Cleveland’s loss Assists scored to the Golden State.

We know who actually became Finals MVP in this series in 2015: Andre Iguodala. It remains hotly debated, with Iguodala himself recently saying he deserved the award against Stephen Curry, who averaged 26-6-5 for his standards despite some tough games and created so much of the space in which Iguodala and others thrived .

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This year, Curry, whose missing Finals MVP was hotly beaten to death on an otherwise Mt. Rushmore-worthy résumé, leaves no doubt. Again, if the Warriors win this series, he’ll have the hardware in his pocket. Nobody else has a chance. The question is: should Curry win the award even if the Warriors lose the series?

You see, it’s a long way to go. If Curry lays an egg or two on the final leg of this series, he won’t win. He must continue his current pace to the end. That’s how it should be. For a loser to win MVP, the gap must be large enough to be overwhelming.

So far it has been like this. Nobody in that streak has come close as great as Curry, who is currently averaging 34.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and two steals on 50 percent shooting. Dude shoots 49 percent from 3 to a tick over 12 tries per game. If this continued, these figures would place him in the choicest historical society.

With 25 triples made to date, Curry is the first player in history to have made at least five 3s in four straight finals games. Following his 43-point feat in Game 4, he’s also one of three point guards to ever set a 40-point/10-rebound final line, joining Magic Johnson and the aforementioned West.

Considering the constant defense he faces and the lack of help he gets 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. You have better defense. They have two elite scorers at Golden State. None of their lineups need to compromise offense for defense or vice versa, while Golden State somehow patches at least one glaring hole every second of this streak.

Draymond Green is currently borderline unplayable. Klay Thompson turns 35 percent. If you’re still seeing this Warriors team through the lens of what it used to be, get your eyes checked. These are not the ancient warriors. However, it’s Old Curry that’s literally the only card Golden State has to play. And so far he’s holding it almost single-handedly.

That’s exactly what James did in 2015 without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. LeBron had the Cavaliers team leading Mathew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson 2-1 against a 67-win Warriors team. He wasn’t as efficient as Curry in that series. Not even close. But he was by far the best player in that series, and he didn’t win the award. Some people would argue that if LeBron didn’t get it then, Curry can’t get it now.

I’m not sure if I belong to these people. My gut is that I feel kinda weird when a player from the losing team wins Finals MVP, although I usually despise arguments leaning on the old, shaky leg of traditionalism. I do not know why. It just feels weird. But if LeBron had won in 2015, I would feel comfortable. West’s precedent was set a decade before I was born. I have no level of intelligence influencing this discussion.

To me, LeBron should have set the modern precedent in 2015. But my colleague Sam Quinn challenged me in our chat room to answer a simple question: why misinform the other? As Sam claimed, it’s similar 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 misunderstood them. Apparently. Why do we have to keep doing these things wrong? Baseball voters finally broke their stupid code when Mariano Rivera got 100 percent of the vote in 2019.

People said the same about Curry, who unanimously won the 2015-16 regular season MVP. How can this happen when Michael Freaking Jordan never won by unanimous decision? Again, two wrongs don’t make a right. There was no viable pick to win the 2015-16 MVP other than Curry. They got that right.

So again, if he continues at this current pace and the Warriors lose the streak, Curry will surely have a case to win his first Finals MVP. He will? I do not know. Tradition is hard to break. And again, personally, I’m not sure how I would feel about it. Of course it doesn’t matter how I feel. All that matters is how the voters feel. I know this: If all the Boston players are up there in their championship hats and shirts announcing Curry as MVP, it’s going to set off one hell of a Twitter firestorm.

2.Jayson Tatum

Unless Boston wins the series and Curry doesn’t break modern precedent, it’s a razor-thin gap between Tatum and Brown right now. It’s almost impossible that both have averaged exactly 22.3 points and 7.0 assists so far in the series. Brown’s scoring was far more efficient than Tatum’s, but I still lean towards Tatum for the style of play. His 7.8 assists per game is twice Brown’s.

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All in all, entering Game 4, Tatum was responsible for 45 percent of Boston’s offense, either through his goals or assists. Tatum is the one defended like the Superstar, and Brown, if we’re splitting hairs, benefits from the secondary creation opportunities Tatum’s gravity provides. Tatum’s finishing issues near the rim resurface, but he’s hitting 45 percent of his 3s this series.

3.Jaylen Brown

For me, Brown felt like the best player for Boston so far, in a way Iguodala felt like the best player for Golden State in 2015. You really have to take into account the superstar’s burden – starring Tatum as 2015’s curry – let the inefficiency slide and really appreciate the overall impact of the man driving the bus, as Charles Barkley is fond of saying.

But Brown was great. No question. His style of play, while not at Tatum’s level, has been significant and it’s not like he’s not creating much of his own offense. He beat Draymond Green multiple times for one-on-one buckets in Game 4. Both Brown and Tatum play their typically superb defense.

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This is the race that is far from over. Once again, if Golden State wins, Curry is a suspension. For Boston, these next two or three games will decide the MVP debate between Tatum and Brown. A week from now, if the Celtics have their way, Tatum and Brown will both have played great throughout this series to lead Boston to the trophy he really cares about.

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