Kurtenbach: A two-step process to land Steph Curry his third NBA MVP award

SAN FRANCISCO — Despite having fans in the stands for the first time in more than a year, Chase Center is still pumping in artificial noise in an effort to re-create a typical full-house.

The Seattle Seahawks would be proud.

That juxtaposition of real and fake crowd noise is jarring, but there are moments of respite — opportunities for the mere thousands in attendance to make their voices fully heard.

Like, for instance, when Steph Curry comes up to the free-throw line.

The chants of “M-V-P” on Friday and Sunday night were clear-throated and valid.

But for Curry to actually win his third MVP award, two things — two extremely possible things — need to happen: Curry must win the scoring title and the Warriors need to finish the season outside the play-in tournament.

Yes, this seems like a lot, but it’s all or nothing for Curry, whose MVP odds currently sit at 17-to-1per Draft Kings.

Why both? I implore you to look at this resume:

This player is averaging 31.1 points per game on arguably the hottest team in the NBA, though they are slated to be part of the play-in tournament. Recently, he outdueled another top MVP candidate.

That’s not Curry. That’s Washington’s Bradley Beal, whose Wizards are 9-1 in their last 10 games, recently beat the Warriors, twice, and has led the NBA in scoring for the vast majority of the season but sits two-tenths of a point behind Curry in the race for the scoring title after the weekend.

He’s been incredible this season. Yet no one talks him up in the MVP race. Curry’s resume is almost identical, albeit with more history.

Yes, the Eastern Conference is a bit easier than the West, but I do think the two are closer than most think. And you can’t tell me that Beal’s supporting cast is any better or worse than Curry’s.

It’s incongruent for Curry to be an MVP candidate and Beal to not be, but that’s the way it’s shaking out right now. For Curry to win MVP amid such circumstances would be ridiculous and unprecedented.

But if Curry were to continue to separate from Beal in the scoring title race and the Warriors were to stay hot for the rest of the season and avoid the play-in tournament, Curry’s MVP case would be much easier to make.

The scoring title speaks for itself. But team success, like it or not, is a part of the evaluation.

This is a narrative-based award, as most recently evidenced by the disconnect between Beal and Curry’s candidacies.

So it’s as critical that the Warriors work their way up into the No. 6 seed, assuring that their first playoff game will be one of a seven-game series.

There is precedent with the alpha of a six-seed winning MVP — Russell Westbrook did it in 2016-17, when the Thunder finished 20 games behind the Warriors in the standings.

Westbrook won the award in large part because of the narrative. Kevin Durant had left Oklahoma City for Golden State, so there was national sympathy for the small market. Westbrook also averaged a triple-double this season, which at the time felt like a big accomplishment.

Westbrook’s Thunder was the worst team to have an NBA MVP since 1982.

So yes, it was a precedent.

Curry doesn’t have the narrative of chasing a season-long triple-double average, but the Warriors could land that No. 6 seed.

And that, paired with the unquestioned late-season fall-off of the two award frontrunners — Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic — could be enough.

The Warriors have 11 games remaining and, as of Monday morning, are 3.5 games back of the Mavericks for the No. 6 seed.

Golden State and Dallas play Tuesday at Chase Center — a big opportunity to knock down that gap by a full game.

In the final 10 games of the season, the Warriors are playing some of the worst teams in the NBA today. Games against Houston (May 1) and Oklahoma City (May 6, 10) — two teams that are tanking hard — should be won easily, and three games against a talented but supremely disjointed New Orleans team should see the Warriors as big favorites, too.

There will be some tough ones — Utah and Phoenix come to San Francisco in the final week of the season, with the season finale coming against a feisty Memphis team — but if the Warriors can pick up nine more wins between now and May 16, getting them to 40 on the season, I think it could be enough to avoid the play-in tournament.

Of course, to do that, Curry will have to continue to play at an MVP level.

And honestly, that might be the easiest part.

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