Until quite recently, we all thought that the MVP contest was going to be a two-horse race. For NBA pundits and fans everywhere, the choice was clear: it was going to be either James Harden or Russell Westbrook, two triple-double machines having career-defining seasons. Few people thought Kawhi Leonard leapfrog both those names.
Kawhi seems to follow a very particular San Antonio Spurs tradition: going unnoticed, even when you’e playing really, really well. The Spurs are, after all, just 2 games behind the Golden State Warriors right now. They’ve stormed into the Playoffs for the 20th consecutive year, and still have a legitimate shot at the West’s top seed. Leading the way for them, Kawhi has made his way into a few conversations. For the most part, it was just a formality; he was there with LeBron, Durant, and Isaiah for the purposes of filling up a list. Until this week, however.
The Sequence Of The Year
With possibly the biggest set of plays by a single player in the whole season, Kawhi punctuated a Spurs win over Harden’s Rockets. And what he did is something that can only be defined as “MVP-worthy”:
That’s a clutch 3-pointer, followed by a chase down block, and tied together with a game-sealing rebound. Three game winning moves, all in about fifteen seconds.
In case we’ve forgotten, Kawhi Leonard has learned from the best of the best. In a previous Tripped Media article, we already discussed how he’s already become “the new Tim Duncan”. Even his demeanor after his fantastic sequence was Duncan-like. He headed to his huddle, refusing to leap for joy, play up to the crowd, or show snark. He kept a straight face, ready to play on. The game wasn’t over.
It’s not unusual for Kawhi Leonard to play really well; as of this time, he’s averaging 26.3 points per game, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He remains arguably the best two-way player on the court not named LeBron James. His past accolades aren’t anything to shy away from, either; lest we forget, he’s a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the 2014 Finals MVP. By the way, he’s just 25.
No Drama, No MVP?
As shared by Pounding The Rock, perhaps one of the reasons Kawhi is being snubbed from the MVP race is the lack of a narrative surrounding him. It’s another age-old San Antonio Spurs tradition he exemplifies; the total lack of drama in his team. He’s not a one-man wrecking crew who chose to stay in OKC after Durant left, like Westbrook. Nor is he a Kardashian-free man surprising the league with 50-point games like Harden. He’s just good ol’ Kawhi Leonard.
In a way, though, that could be his unique selling point in the race. For all we know, Kawhi could still win the MVP – he’s deserving too, after all. But if he does, it will be purely because of what he does on the court, and nothing else. He’s a Spur. He’s a product of the Poppovich system. That’s just how he’d like it.