Kawhi Leonard just gets better each season. He’s won back to back defensive player of the year awards but now this season he is showcasing his offensive improvements. The Spurs won a franchise best 67 games last season. Kawhi has been called a system player and despite his age Tim Duncan was always looked at as the lynch pin for the Spurs.
Well Duncan retired and the Spurs have 61 wins on the season. Kawhi has now improved his scoring in each season he’s been in the league. He’s up to a career high in assists per game and PER. The system might be the best in the league but Kawhi is just that good. Every season he adds something to his game. When he came into the league he couldn’t shoot and now he’s had back-to-back seasons with over 100 made 3-pointers while shooting at least 38% from 3-point range.
The knock on Kawhi’s MVP case is that he doesn’t have as many moments as the other guys and he doesn’t create like them. This is his first season with a usage over 30 and that will be something he probably adds to his game. He did have the shot and block against the Rockets but other than that he’s just been a solid guy all season. Westbrook, Harden and LeBron have triple-doubles or some sequence of highlight plays.
Kawhi’s biggest case for MVP is that he is the best defender of the candidates. The other three guys slack off on defense. LeBron can wake up at times on the defensive end but Kawhi is by far the best perimeter defender in the league. Even with the added offensive responsibilities he still guards the best player on the opposing team. He gets it done of both ends of the floor.
To boost his case Kawhi is on the best team among the final four. Many expected the Spurs to take a big dip when Duncan left. They somehow are still at 60+ wins and they are the best defensive team in the league. Kawhi is playing with a lot of below average defenders but the Spurs have the 2nd best Net rating and are just ahead of the Warriors for best defensive rating.
People talk about the lack of support that Westbrook and Harden have but Kawhi is playing with an old Tony Parker, David Lee, an old Manu Ginobili and an old Pau Gasol. Danny Green has been banged up this season and LaMarcus Aldridge has been subpar compared to previous years. The system is still great but Kawhi does not have a great supporting cast.
He’s having a career year, he’s on the 2nd best team in the league and they have been that all year long. He’s not the flashy type and never will be. After hitting big shots, he doesn’t have big celebrations. He just goes about his business and wins games. If winning matters that much then Kawhi is the superstar on the best team.