Most Valu­able Player

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - NBA -

Stephen Curry: Be­cause his gaudy num­bers carry the as­ter­isk that de­fenses also must deal with Kevin Du­rant, Curry will have a tough time gain­ing trac­tion in the NBA MVP con­ver­sa­tion. That doesn’t change the fact, how­ever, that Curry has played at an MVP-cal­iber level. In 34.8 min­utes, he is av­er­ag­ing 28.9 points, 5.5 as­sists, 5.2 re­bounds and 1.3 steals. If Curry can im­prove his shoot­ing per­cent­age (48.3) just a bit, he should make the 50-40-90 club for the sec­ond time in his ca­reer. Per­haps the best way to mea­sure Curry’s im­por­tance, though, is to look at how Golden State did when he wasn’t avail­able. The War­riors were 22-8 with him, and 5-6 with­out him. Ac­cord­ing to NBA.com, Golden State outscored op­po­nents by a team-best 11.6 net rat­ing with Curry on the court. That num­ber plum­meted to a mi­nus-2.6 with­out him. Dray­mond Green: It was dif­fi­cult to find a de­serv­ing can­di­date for this award, which speaks to the War­riors’ de­fen­sive strug­gles. Af­ter post­ing a top-six de­fen­sive rat­ing each of Kerr’s first three sea­sons, Golden State slumped to 11th last sea­son. At this sea­son’s mid­point, it’s 16th out of 30 teams. A big rea­son be­hind the War­riors’ de­fen­sive is­sues: Green has missed 14 games. Even when he has played, he hasn’t been the de­fen­sive force fans are used to see­ing. Still, Green led the team in steals (1.7) and de­fen­sive rat­ing (102.4), and he ranked third in blocks (0.96), trail­ing the much taller Du­rant (1.1) and Damian Jones (1.0). Pa­trick McCaw: Af­ter McCaw had a dis­ap­point­ing 2017-18 sea­son in which he sus­tained a scary spinal in­jury, Golden State ex­pected the re­stricted free-agent guard to sign its one-year, $1.7 mil­lion qual­i­fy­ing of­fer and try to boost his value for free agency next sum­mer. In­stead, McCaw played hard­ball with the back-to-back NBA cham­pi­ons despite hav­ing no lever­age. Less than two weeks ago, the War­riors de­clined to match Cleve­land’s non-guar­an­teed two-year, $6 mil­lion of­fer sheet. McCaw has since been waived by the Cava­liers and signed a one-year, vet­eran-min­i­mum con­tract with the Rap­tors. The whole sce­nario left Golden State sad­dened and con­fused. Jonas Jere­bko: In July, when the War­riors signed Jere­bko — fresh off get­ting waived by Utah — to a one-year, vet­eran-min­i­mum deal, they did so hop­ing he’d bol­ster their three-point shoot­ing off the bench. What Golden State has got­ten is one of its most com­plete, re­li­able re­serves. In 20 min­utes per game, Jere­bko av­er­aged 7.5 points, 5.0 re­bounds and 1.6 as­sists. Though his 36.4-per­cent clip from beyond the arc was down from last sea­son’s 41.4, he has been an ideal fit for Kerr’s of­fense, play­ing mul­ti­ple po­si­tions, mov­ing off the ball and mak­ing de­ci­sions on the fly. Jere­bko shot 84.3 per­cent from the foul line and a ca­reer-best 59.6 per­cent on two-point­ers.

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