CJ McCollum has long been the frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. His jump into the Portland Trail Blazers’ starting lineup was accompanied by a production increase of an incredible 14.0 points per game. He is more aggressive than he was last season; he is more balanced than he was last season; he is even more efficient than he was last season—something you might not expect from a third-year guard dealing with more defensive attention. For all this, though, there remains one player that could truly threaten McCollum for MIP if media members vote creatively. Henry Abbott and David Thorpe of ESPN briefly highlight the unorthodox candidate.
Abbott: I just asked David Thorpe if CJ McCollum was going to win Most Improved Player, and he said…
Thorpe: Probably, because they’re not going to give it to Steph Curry.
Abbott: Yeah, there you go. They just don’t give it to, like, the MVP, but you could certainly make a case.
The reigning MVP has taken his game to a whole new level this season, increasing his points per game and efficiency without the role shift that typically boosts players into the most improved conversation. Leading the league in scoring, Curry’s new average of 30.7 points per game is an improbable 6.9 points higher than his 2014-15 average. This is because his efficiency is now off the charts. He leads all starting guards in field goal percentage and is hitting 5.1 threes per outing, which is far and away the most in recorded NBA history. He just broke his own record for most threes in a season (286) on Sunday night, in a game where he tied the NBA record for most threes in a game (12). There are still 24 games left to play. At his current rate, he will finish the season with an unprecedented 410 threes made.
Given the success of the 53-5 Golden State Warriors and the historic nature of Curry’s season-to-season climb, a strong case can indeed be made for Curry; especially if he keeps this up and McCollum wavers even slightly.