Over the summer, the NBA talk centered around the usual suspects: LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. The San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard was hardly mentioned on anyone’s list of would-be MVP candidates.
The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard has been deemed somewhat of a reluctant star. But this season, things have definitely changed. The first game of the season saw him drop hot plasma to the tune of 35 points in a dominating 129-100 Spurs victory over the team some have been saying could be the best ever, Golden State.
The lovely part about Leonard’s game is that he can score within the confines of a half court set, on the break, and off the dribble. There are very few players in the National Basketball Association who can do the things that he can. He scored with ease on Golden State’s defenders, shot 15-15 from the charity stripe and had 31 points by the end of third quarter. Emotionless, unrelenting and impossible to stop, Leonard, perhaps the league’s most versatile and complete defenders, also had five steals.
The Spurs’ next game against the Sacramento Kings offered a uniquely different set of problems than the Warriors. Unlike the team from Oakland, the Kings have plenty of potential shot blockers and wide bodies that can clog up the painted area.
The Kings seemed far more inspired to face San Antonio than the Warriors were, but Rudy Gay was no more successful in bothering Leonard than Durant was. Kawhi scored 30 in the 102-94 winwhile converting over 52% of his shots
He’s averaging five steals and four assists as well for the 2-0 Spurs. This is the first time Leonard has scored 30 in back-to-back games, and certainly will not be the last.
It seems like the NBA’s MVP race has already gotten off to a great start, and the player once deemed a reluctant superstar is in it to win it.