The hot sports take may be a little endangered baby bird, but Tracy McGrady performed a remarkable act of conservation this morning on The Jump, when he said that Steph Curry’s unanimous MVP win was more due to the watered-down level of competition in today’s NBA compared to years past. Pablo Torre rightly called him out, and McGrady admitted that other guys should have won unanimously before, but he also misses the point that MVP voting has more to do with media biases than on-court greatness. Hold onto your butts and strap in for this take.
Suppose you wanted to fact check this un-fact-checkable take. The way you’d start is by checking who else was in contention for the MVP during a variety of seasons in a variety of eras and comparing their win shares or other similar holistic stats. This is not a complete cross-section of the talent on hand, but it’s at least one blunt metric that gauges who the top five players in a season were.
Here’s this year’s crop’s win shares (all screencaps via Basketball Reference):
And here’s 2000's, somehow the only season where Shaq won MVP.
McGrady’s other example, Michael Jordan, had his best season (by PER) in 1987-88. Here’s that year’s leaders.
So by that one metric, Curry’s 2015-16 season was in fact better than either of Jordan or Shaq’s best years. This is not necessarily the case, but look at the WS/48 of players 2-5 from this season compared to 1988 and 2000. The idea that Curry only won because the rest of the league is a bunch of schlubs is obvious crockery and McGrady’s take is proof that former players will never pass up an opportunity to talk about Back In The Day.