Stephen Curry is currently having one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, and looks almost certain to repeat as the league’s most valuable player, with his Golden State Warriors holding a 47-4 record.
Curry was playing at an extremely high level consistently throughout last season but has taken his game to another stratosphere this year, with the Warriors attempting to break the Chicago Bulls' regular season record of 72 wins.
The improvements Curry made to his game during the summer has carried into the season and has led to murmurs from some media members and former players that the reigning MVP should be in contention for the most improved player award, too.
Initially, when you hear the MVP could be in line for the MIP award, it sounds crazy and open to ridicule, but that isn’t the case with Curry, as a convincing argument can be made that he is more than deserving of the latter award than anyone else in the league.
Curry has upped his points-per-game this season from 23.8 to 29.8, making him the league’s highest scorer. He is shooting more than 50% of shots from the field for the first time in his career and has improved his numbers in the steals and rebounds-per-game statistics.
Not only this, but he is pouring in 4.9 three-pointers-a-game - such a rate that if he continues at the same pace until the end of the season he will finish with around 400 made threes. That would be over 100 more than the record of 286 which was set last season...by Steph Curry.
But there is the counter-argument that the award for most improved player is created for players who have made a step up from being a mid to low level player, not someone who is on the verge of back to back MVP honours.
Taking Curry out of the mix, here are three players who will be hoping to take the award home come June.
McCollum is the clear leader to win the award at this point of the season, having excelled in his starting role since Portland hit the reset button on their franchise during the offseason.
His numbers may be slightly distorted due to the fact he is now starting and is playing 35 minutes a game, 20 more than last season, but that should take little away from how McCollum has stepped up his game.
He is well aware that Damian Lillard is the team’s star, but has no problem taking over a game when necessary and has taken a huge jump from 6.8 points-per-game to 20.8.
Next on the list is Will Barton who, ironically, was traded to the Denver Nuggets by Portland, who could now use another player like Barton.
However, Denver’s Barton is a totally different player to the one we saw in Portland, and he has thrived under the tutelage of new Pistons head coach Mike Malone.
Barton is putting up career-high numbers in field goal, three point and free throw percentage, as well as averaging more rebounds than at any other point in his career.
By scoring efficiently in his minutes on court - 15.4 ppg in 28.4 minutes - Barton has made himself a regular behind starter Gary Harris, not bad for someone who was the third string shooting guard in Portland behind the aforementioned McCollum.
Crowder began his NBA career at the Dallas Mavericks in 2012 and spent two and a half years at the franchise before being part of the trade to the Boston Celtics which saw Rajon Rondo sent to the Mavs.
Yet he has now made himself debatably the most invaluable member of the starting line-up by being the best two-way player on the Celtics roster, bringing benefits the team on both offense and defense.
Like Barton, Crowder is also recording career-high’s in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and rebounds-per-game, and the Celtics will be looking for his improvement to continue as Boston push for the playoffs.
It remains to be seen if Curry will be given enough votes to win the award, but it would certainly be a controversial decision. For now we will have to wait until June to find out.