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Wire to wire: Warriors' Curry easily gets our Kia MVP vote

Golden State's emergence as a historic force would not have happened were it not for the way its star led all season

POSTED: Apr 15, 2016 11:12 AM ET

By Sekou Smith

BY Sekou Smith

NBA.com

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Who is the pound-for-pound best player in the game today?

The answer to the question is simply, Stephen Curry.

The best scorer?

Same answer.

The most unstoppable?

It's him.

The most prolific shooter?

Yup.

The Kia MVP?

Steph!

Whatever the measure of greatness, in number and theory, the answer now and until further notice will remain the same.

GameTime: A Look At Golden State

Check out this recap of the Warriors' historic season and re-live the journey.

Stephen Curry, the leader and leading scorer of the team with the best regular-season record in the storied history of this glorious game, sits atop the throne for the second straight season.

The ceremonial acknowledgment will come in the form of a second consecutive Maurice Podoloff Trophy, given annually to the league's most valuable player, with Curry's name splashed across the front.

He went wire-to-wire here atop this, our final Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, distancing himself from a stellar crowd that includes four-time MVP (LeBron James), the 2014 Kia MVP (Kevin Durant), the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year (Kawhi Leonard) and this season's triple-double king (Russell Westbrook).

Curry's improvement from last season fueled both his transcendent individual season and the Warriors' historic march to 73-wins, surpassing the Michael Jordan-led 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' 72-win season.

Grizzlies vs. Warriors

Stephen Curry explodes for 46 points, with ten threes notching over 400 3-pointers in a season, and leads Golden State over Memphis to notch the Warriors' historic 73rd win to set an NBA record.

Not since Larry Bird in the 1984-85 season has a reigning MVP improved his scoring average the way Curry did this season, a 6.3-point jump (from 23.8 to 30.1) on his way to his first scoring title.

He shattered his own record for 3-pointers made in a season by a staggering 116, becoming the first player in NBA history to knock down 400 shots from distance. He drained 10 in the season finale for a final tally of 402, shooting a preposterous 45 percent.

For all of the focus on Curry's shooting and scoring prowess, he's evolved into so much more than just the greatest shooter in the game.

He became just the sixth player in NBA history to average 30 or more points and two or more steals in a season, joining the likes of Michael Jordan (who did it eight times) and Allen Iverson (three times).

He also averaged 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds in a season where his overall improvement, on the defensive end as well, was undeniable.

Curry Makes 400th 3-Pointer Of 2015-16

With this Andrew Bogut assist, Stephen Curry makes his 400th three-pointer of the season, breaking his own record set just last year.

But even if we were just to focus on his otherworldly shot-making wizardry, Curry blows the field away. He joins his coach, Steve Kerr, and two-time MVP Steve Nash as the only players to gain entry to the uber-elite 50-45-90 club.

The fact that no one saw this coming, even those closest to Curry, remains the most remarkable aspect of his rise to the top.

"Obviously, they're numbers that I've worked for and tried to elevate my game to that level," Curry said after the Warriors smashed Memphis Wednesday night to reach 73 wins. "That 50-40-90 club, that's something that I find pretty special. To be able to shoot volume and accuracy and all that kind of stuff, that's why I shoot all the reps that I do, and go out and play the way that I do.

"The other stuff is just ... I want to be great and I want to be the best I can be. And I think I've found a way in these last couple years to just keep getting better and keep doing little things that you might not see in the summer and in the off days that really helped my confidence when I'm out there on the floor. I feel like I can really do anything, so that's what I'm about."

> Vote for who you think should be this year's Kia MVP at www.nba.com/kiamvpfanvote and enter for a chance to win a trip to the NBA Finals 2016! Fans can also vote by tweeting the player's first and last name along with #KIAMVP and #SWEEPSTAKES; And by searching for your favorite player or team wtih the phrase "KIA MVP" on Google.

Our final Top 10 in the Kia Race to the MVP standings:

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Last week's ranking: No. 1

Stephen Curry's Huge Night

Stephen Curry scores 46 points including his record setting 400th three-pointer for the season to lead the Warriors to the all-time, regular season win record of 73.

Curry should be first not only your MVP ballot, but also on your Kia Most Improved Player ballot, too. That's especially true given the significant increases in production across the board from his first Kia MVP season to this one. Curry raised his game in nearly every single significant statistical category, the most glaring being his league-leading scoring average (30.1) which improved by a whopping 6.3 points per game. He kicked the door in on the 50-40-90 club by going for 50 (FG percentage)-45 (3-point percentage)-91 (free throw percentage). And for good measure, he shattered his own 3-pointers made mark set last season by 116, finishing as the first player in league history to make 400 (he had 402) shots from beyond the 3-point line in a season.

2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Last week's ranking: No. 2

Kia Awards: LeBron James

Cleveland's LeBron James is a nominee for the Kia Eastern Conference Player of the Month.

For all of the bellyaching that goes on regarding LeBron's activity away from the court, you cannot dispute the impact he's had since returning to Cleveland. A trip to The Finals last season followed up with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference came thanks to all his heavy lifting this season. And that includes his turning it up after the All-Star break (25.8 points on 55.6 percent shooting, 37.9 percent on 3-pointers, 8.1 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals). The Cavaliers don't sniff 57 wins without LeBron leading the way. His claim to the throne as the best player in the game remains strong, even if Curry is sitting on it right now.

3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: No. 3

Durant Solid vs. Clippers

Kevin Durant scores 31 points, grabs eight rebounds and hands out five assists to lead the Thunder to the come from behind victory.

Durant's mission this season was to reclaim his place among the league's elite. He accomplished that by reminding the world that he is the most dynamic scoring machine in the game not named Curry. He carries a league-best streak of 64 straight games scoring 20 or more points into the Thunder's first-round series against Dallas. Lost in the swirl of Durant's scoring magnificence is the fact that he's become a much better rebounder (8.2) and facilitator (5.1 assists) than he was during his abbreviated 2014-15 season. After the Thunder failed to make the playoffs last season without him, they quickly resumed their place among the Western Conference elite with him fully integrated back into the mix.

4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Last week's ranking: No. 5

Leonard Dominates OKC

Kawhi Leonard scores 26 points, grabs five rebounds and hands out five assists to help the Spurs close out the regular season with a record-tying 40-1 home record.

The strongest MVP case for Leonard is crafted around the fact that he is the consensus pick as the best two-way player in the game today. No one, at any position, brings the elite level of production he does both offensively and defensively. His dramatically improved offensive arsenal includes 50.6 field goal percentage, 44.3 percent shooting on 3-pointers and a sterling 87.4 percent from the free-throw line. Leonard shared the scoring load this season with LaMarcus Aldridge as the Spurs shifted their focus from their aging Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to the future faces of the franchise. Leonard finished the regular season averaging a career-best 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 steals and one block.

5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: No. 4

Kia Awards: Russell Westbrook

The Thunder's Russell Westbrook is a nominee for the Kia Western Conference Player of the Month.

The league's leader in triple-doubles (18) this season, Westbrook should be a lock for the other guard spot on every first-team All-NBA ballot opposite Stephen Curry. Westbrook dialed back his scoring this season (23.5 compared to a league-best 28.1 last season) with Kevin Durant healthy and back in the lineup. As Westbrook did that, he raised his game elsewhere with career-best averages in assists (10.4) and rebounds (7.8). With his performance this season, Westbrook might have finally silenced all of the critics who have argued that he's not a "true" point guard. Westbrook has shown an ability to do it all for a Thunder team bent on upsetting the order of things in the Western Conference playoffs.

6. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Last week's ranking: No. 6

Paul Powers Clippers Past Grizzlies

Chris Paul had 12 points and 13 assists as the Clippers beat the Grizzlies, 110-84.

Given the circumstance he dealt with this season, Paul deserves all of the praise that's come his way for helping save the Clippers' season. The failed attempt to revamp the bench blew up weeks into the season. And when Blake Griffin went down with a quad injury at Christmas, Paul kicked his game into overdrive. He's always been the unquestioned leader of this team, but Griffin's absence forced him to take on even more of a leadership and scoring role while also making sure the Clippers didn't lose ground in the Western Conference standings. The truth is, his numbers (19.5 points, 10 assists, 2.1 steals) don't do justice to the real impact Paul continues to have on the Clippers five seasons into his tenure.

7. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: No. 8

Top 10: Kyle Lowry

Check out the top 10 plays from Eastern Conference All-Star Kyle Lowry!

Lowry earned his second straight All-Star spot and, along with fellow All-Star DeMar DeRoan, led the Raptors to the first 50-win season in their franchise history. All Lowry did was average a career-best 21.2 points to go along with 6.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals. Now comes the real challenge: lifting the Raptors out of the postseason funk caused by back-to-back first round exits. The Indiana Pacers stand in the way of the Lowry and the Raptors, who believe they are poised to not only break through the first round but to make a conference finals run. If Lowry manages to lead that charge, he will have validated the best season in franchise history.

8. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: No. 7

Thomas Powers Celtics Past Heat

Isaiah Thomas has 21 points to help the Celtics rally from 26 points down to beat the Heat 98-88 on Wednesday night.

Whatever plans Danny Ainge has for the future in Boston will revolve around Thomas, who earned his first All-Star nod this season and morphed into the "star" talent these Celtics supposedly did not have in their midst. He led the Celtics in points (career-best 22.2) and assists (6.2) this season, serving as the catalyst for the motley crew coach Brad Stevens has turned into a playoff squad sooner than expected. The revival doesn't happen without Thomas, acquired in a trade with Phoenix last season, and doesn't hit the ground running as a sixth man just in time for a 2015 postseason push. He came back this season confident and poised to assume a leadership role that has been invaluable.

9. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Last week's ranking: No. 9

Top 10: Andre Drummond

Check out the top 10 plays from Eastern Conference All-Star Andre Drummond!

Drummond's place on the short list of the league's best big men was solidified with his performance this season. He led the league in double-doubles and rebounds while helping the Pistons end their six-season playoff drought. He capped off his finest NBA season, averaging career-highs in points (16.2) rebounds (14.8) and steals (1.5) to go along with 1.4 blocks. If the Pistons have any shot at making their first-round matchup against Cleveland interesting, it'll start with Drummond battling Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov for every inch around the basket on both ends. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is counting on him doing exactly that against the Cavaliers.

10. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Last week's ranking: No. 10

Lillard Scores 51 vs. Warriors

Damian Lillard scores a career-high 51 points with seven assists and six steals to beat the Warriors on Friday night.

The All-Star bid that never came for Lillard this season can never be rectified. But a playoff appearance will have to suffice, for now. Lillard was nothing short of remarkable this season, teaming up with C.J. McCollum to guide the Trail Blazers to the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. He averaged career-highs in points (25.1) and assists (6.8) in his first season without LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum by his side in the starting lineup. He also owns one of the best single performances of the season; the career-high 51-point masterpiece he delivered in a 32-point demolition of the Golden State Warriors in the first game after the All-Star break.

Others receiving consideration: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets; Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat; Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors; James Harden, Houston Rockets; Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

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Editor's note: As the 2015-16 season winds down, NBA.com's writers give their picks for the various end-of-season awards.

Below is our schedule of stories:

April 5: Executive of the Year

April 7: Coach of the Year

April 11: Kia Most Improved Player

April 12: Kia Sixth Man of the Year

April 13: Kia Rookie of the Year

April 14: Kia Defensive Player of the Year

April 15: Kia MVP

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Sekou Smith is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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