Barry: MVP award needs to be split, but Curry is the one for now 

Editor’s note: Rick Barry played eight season for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.

Frequently, the choice for the NBA Most Valuable Player award has been obvious. Other times, like this season, the final selection is up for discussion.

Prior to the debate, however, let me say the current selection process makes no logical sense whatsoever.

Tell me, how is it possible to have an MVP award for one player when the league has two conferences and the teams do not play comparable schedules? How can you justify giving the award to a player who plays in a weaker conference, one who is required to play fewer games against the better teams in the other conference? If new Commissioner Adam Silver really is open to change — and I have no doubt that he is — he should consider one here. Awarding an MVP for each conference would make more sense, similar to what is done in professional baseball and football. Last season, the Western Conference MVP would easily have gone to Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who was selected for the leaguewide award. Miami’s LeBron James would have garnered the MVP honors for the Eastern Conference.

But since the league honors only one player with its MVP award based on regular-season performance, here are my half-dozen bona fide candidates: Cleveland’s James, the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, Houston’s James Harden, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.

Each of these outstanding players has been the primary weapon for their respective teams and has legitimate reasons to be considered. Statistically, all have performed at a very high level, but I remove three candidates from consideration immediately. James is the only candidate shooting less than 80 percent (low 70s) at the free-throw line, Westbrook is shooting in the low-40th percentile on 2-point field goals and less than 30 percent on 3-pointers. Davis is having a great season statistically, but his team is not performing as well as the teams of the other candidates.

A player on the best team is deserving of extra consideration. Currently, this means Curry, Harden and Paul head the field, with Harden and Paul deadlocked in second place.

Playing on a winning team with outstanding personnel shouldn’t be the determining factor for the award. This is where statistics come into play. Unfortunately, many statistical evaluations can be subjective. Harden scores more points, but he takes more shots and plays more minutes. Paul has a few more assists per game, but scores less points than Harden and Curry. All three average about two steals per game and all of them rebound exceptionally well for guards.

So, why do I give the edge to Curry? First, because he is the best overall shooter — better than 50 percent on twos, 43 percent on 3s and 90 percent at the free-throw line. Second, he is the best player on what has been the best team in the league virtually from the start. And finally, Steph is just so darn exciting to watch and wears the team uniform that I once wore proudly.

See, I told you this could be subjective.

The Warriors’ 1975 NBA championship team and 2015 Pacific Division winners will be celebrated at Rick Barry Legends Night on Thursday. For information on the fundraiser at Magnin Events & Rooftop Lounge in downtown Oakland, email

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