Why Kawhi Leonard Will Not Win MVP
*Photo via USA Today
Kawhi Leonard is having his best season of his young career. He has grown in leadership and influence, defensively, and statistically. Leonard has presumed the most important player role on one of the best teams in the NBA. When Leonard won the 2014 Finals MVP, this role was a forgone conclusion and it seems this destiny is finally taking shape. Now, Kawhi Leonard is quietly developed himself into an early MVP candidate.
Much of San Antonio’s success this season hinges on Leonard. He leads the team in points, which really isn’t a big deal (for them), steals, and is the driving force behind their suffocating defense. Ranked first in the league, the Spurs’ defense is largely benefitted from Leonard’s perimeter expertise that greatly stifles their opponent’s best player. Also ranked first in the league for defensive efficiency (a projection based on estimated points allowed per 100 possessions), Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard has also proven to be quite a challenge for the opposing defenses. Averaging over 21 PPG, he is quite possibly the most efficient player on any given basketball court in making over half of his nearly 16 shot attempts from the field and maintains the highest 3-point percentage in the league, currently at .490. Leonard’s consistency and influence on the game propels the Spurs and, as a result, increases his MVP chances.
But does it really?
Kawhi Leonard’s mark on San Antonio certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed but the extent of his influence has taken on a classic Spur characteristic: individual achievements take a backseat to team play and ultimately winning the Larry O’Brien trophy, again. Since the last Spur won the MVP award (Tim Duncan in 2003) the Spurs have won three Championships and haven’t missed the playoffs.
*Photo via USA Today
This is exactly what they want and expect. This is exactly why Kawhi Leonard will not win the MVP award.
While Kawhi Leonard deserves to remain in the MVP conversation and should remain in consideration for the award, but he will not win NBA highest individual accolade because the Spurs put team and winning before any individual. Or they wouldn’t be on the team.
Voters simply will not bite on Kawhi Leonard as the Most Valuable Player due to the permeability of the system he plays within. While the Gregg Popovich’s coaching doesn’t restrict Leonard’s influence, efficiency, and leadership, it does dilute his numbers. Stephen Curry and LeBron James both average over 19 field goal attempts per game on about 30 and 25 points respectively. Leonard will not match those numbers but the Spurs will keep winning.
Critics will attribute his good play to systematic success or burden him with the inability to put up better numbers, but simply it is the greatness of the system he plays in that supersedes the MVP award. Go get that Finals MVP, again, Kawhi.