Don’t sleep on Kawhi Leonard. At 25, he’s already an NBA Finals MVP and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the heir to the house that Tim Duncan built in San Antonio, and his game is straight up ridiculous.
There’s so much emphasis on dunks in today’s highlight-centric world that people overlook the other 95% of the game. Yes, I could watch Russell Westbrook dunk all day, but a student of the game does not that make me. Kawhi Leonard’s all-around game is so good that the retirement of Tim Duncan hasn’t affected the franchise.
The Spurs lost their best player and kept it moving. Duncan and Popovich won over a thousand games together (1,001); the franchise retired his #21 jersey less than six months after he retired and they’re still sitting pretty in second place in the Western Conference. Imagine if the Lakers had been able to handle Kobe’s retirement with poise? They probably wouldn’t be facing a fourth consecutive year with no playoffs. They’re so bad (again) this year they’re sure to land one of the top picks from this year’s stupid talented draft class – these guys are gonna make noise in the league for a looonnng time:
The Spurs’ post-Duncan success can be attributed to two things: the merits of Pop’s system and the greatness of Kawhi Leonard. Now in his sixth year, Leonard just keeps getting better. This year, he’s averaging 26 points, 6 boards, 2 steals, and 3 assists a game. He’s shooting 90% from the charity stripe and almost 50% from the floor. He brings it night in, night out, and the product of all that hard work manifests itself constantly, like this sequence where he single-handedly won the game for the Spurs by knocking down a clutch three and then blocking James Harden’s shot seconds later.
Plays like that epitomize an MVP. You can’t get much more valuable than icing a game not once, but twice. Unfortunately for Leonard, he’s got Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and LeBron James to outshine for the coveted award. Leonard literally couldn’t be playing much better, but he’s still a long shot to win MVP. It would be criminal to deny either Westbrook or Harden the award this season.
However it shakes out, somebody’s getting robbed. But you can bet that Kawhi Leonard is gonna keep putting in work and getting better, because that’s what he does.