Kawhi Leonard – The MVP that no one is talking about

Kawhi Leonard

Russell Westbrook and James Harden have covered the MVP discussion all season long. Triple-doubles, highlights and breakout performances have lifted Harden and Westbrook’s case in the public eye. However, there’s been a guy by the name of Kawhi Leonard who’s been lurking in the background and is not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Kawhi has been leading the San Antonio Spurs to win after win. Coming into the season, no one really knew what to expect from this team. With Tim Duncan retiring and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili’s careers declining, the outcome of the Spurs was hard to determine. It’s hard to count out Coach Popovich due to his basketball intelligence and the system that he has in place but there were questions of if Kawhi Leonard could lead this team to success. Well so far, he’s done that in MVP fashion. 

He’s accepted the reigns of taking more weight on his shoulders and delivering when it matters most. Leonard has been a defensive prowess but now he’s evolving into a dynamic scorer on the offensive side of the ball making him a dual threat. What’s glamorous about his career is how he’s progressed into taking more of a major role and has answered the bell and done so efficiently. As his usage increased, his points per game and PER (player efficiency rating) increased as well and that has panned out great for the Spurs this season.

Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard’s Progression in Points/Game, PER, and Usage over his career (stats via basketball-reference).

The Spurs are four games behind the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference with a 42-13 record. Kawhi is eighth in scoring averaging 25.9 points per game and it’s coming at an efficient rate. He’s averaging 48.8% from the field, 39.5% from three, and 89.8% from the free-throw line toeing the 50/40/90 stat line.  He’s also averaging 5.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game to coincide with these efficient numbers. 

There have been numerous times where he has looked unstoppable out on the floor. Kawhi Leonard is on a current stretch of four straight games with at least 30 points. He’s putting up Kobe Bryant-like numbers and even giving us glimpses of Bryant back in his hey-day. 

Although Russell Westbrook is having a record-breaking season and James Harden is dominating with ease, we’d be remissed if we didn’t give Kawhi Leonard his just due. He should highly be considered in the MVP race. Leading his team to the 2nd best record in the NBA on a high volume of scoring at a very efficient rate is more than MVP worthy in my eyes.


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