Can Kawhi Leonard Win The MVP Award?

Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports

Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports

Can Kawhi Leonard Win The MVP Award?


Since entering the league, not many players have undergone the on court growth Kawhi Leonard has displayed each passing season. The Spurs swingman came into the league with a broken jump shot and was a pure athletic, defensive minded player. Now, Kawhi finds himself among the leaders in three point percentage, and has transformed into the cornerstone of the San Antonio Spurs franchise for the foreseeable future.

With Tim Duncan officially calling it a day this past summer, as well as aging Spurs legends in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilli continuing to assume a more role player type position within the system, they have handed the kays to Leonard to take them forward. It is now up to him to realise his full potential, and become the dominant force on both ends we want to see. Kawhi now needs to become a player that is heavily involved in the MVP discussions.

The Spurs have started this campaign in classic Spurs fashion, by collecting wins and not making much noise around the league in doing so. At the head of this well-oiled machine has been Kawhi, who has started this season in great form. He is currently averaging 26.4 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 3.4 assists per game and 2.4 thefts per contest en route to a 5-2 record so far. Kawhi had been impressive, but it must be sustained excellence for the entire season resulting in wins for him to receive strong consideration.

So we must ask, can he REALLY win MVP?

It’s a tough question to answer this early in the season, but even with this small sample size, we can gather a fairly good understanding of how this year may pan out for the 25 year old. It’s inevitable the Spurs will win a lot of games this season. They’ll easily win over 50 games yet again, and that is the first step towards the MVP mountain – team success. Players that put up superb numbers in a team with a losing record rarely get consideration for the prestigious honor, so Kawhi has already ticked the first box he’ll need to when determining whether he will challenge for the award.

The next steps are when it gets complicated for “the klaw”. His numbers will be the next aspect dissected by the media and voters. Its likely Kawhi will not put up as jaw dropping numbers as other MVP candidates. This is due to the Spurs having a selfless system of team basketball, which results in not caring who takes the shots or the glory. As a result of this, Kawhi’s individual numbers suffer. I’m sure he and Greg Popovich wouldn’t have it any other way as long as they are winning, but nevertheless, it’s an important factor when looking at each MVP case.

Another underrated aspect that may affect Kawhi’s MVP quest, is the balance of power between he and talented power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Reports came out earlier this summer that Aldridge wasn’t happy being second option to Leonard, and even though he quickly denied these, it does ponder the question of whether Aldridge grows frustrated sometimes. LaMarcus thrives on isolation basketball, when he can put his moves down low on other big men, but the Spurs system goes away from that, and is a more swing-pass perimeter game which could leave Aldridge chasing stats at times. He needs to make sure he gets his own and satisfy his own ego as the Spurs are winning games, and even though Popovich may do an excellent job in hiding this fact, it still effects Kawhi’s ability to truly dominate basketball games.

The last facet we must consider is the Spurs famous rest regime. As established earlier, the Spurs are going to win a lot of games this season, which will open the door for rest throughout the season. With Popovich knowing the only thing that matters is June when the playoffs commence, he may look to rest his stars more than usual. Kawhi may see his minutes reduced, as well as a reduction in the games he plays, enabling him to stay fresh for the post season. If this is in fact the case, his MVP campaign could again be understandably effected.

All in all, Kawhi is transcending into a serious candidate to win MVP this season. His name has popped up as a potential realistic candidate, and rightly so. The Spurs will have the record to match his case, but it’s up to him to provide the numbers that confirm his worthiness. Kawhi already has an NBA championship, a finals MVP and two defensive player of the year awards. He is looking to add another trophy to his growing resume, and an MVP could be in his future.

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