Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) speaks during a press conference next to the NBA Finals MVP trophy after game five of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA season isn’t even close and already there is talk of who will take home the MVP. Could the San Antonio Spurs gear Kawhi Leonard for a run?
Gregg Popovich inclined to turn Leonard loose
The complexion of the 2013-2014 NBA Finals didn’t really change until Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich decided to get forward Kawhi Leonard more involved in the game plan. Through the first two games the 22-year old averaged 28 minutes, nine points and two rebounds. When Pop altered the game plan to feature Leonard, those numbers spiked. At just over 37 minutes per game, he averaged 23 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. His play earned him Final MVP honors and validation as the next great superstar in San Antonio. Popovich has every reason in the world to construct his plans around Leonard moving forward. The question then becomes just how good can the kid get?
Versatility make him a threat to LeBron James and Kevin Durant
Most of the league MVP talk centers around the typical names. LeBron James remains an odd-on favorite while reigning winner Kevin Durant is resting up for a repeat run of his own. There is the ever dangerous Derrick Rose and Golden State offensive machine Stephen Curry. However, what makes Leonard not just a conversation topic but a legitimate threat is his athleticism and versatility. Part of the reason the Spurs drafted him in the first place was because he had the skill set to play both ways, offensively and defensively. He proved that much in the Finals. San Antonio has always been about team play and that isn’t likely to change, but it isn’t like they haven’t run their system through a single player before. Tim Duncan won the award twice in a row back in 2002 and 2003.
It’s not an easy sell by any means. Kawhi Leonard has yet to sustain superstar play through an entire season, but based on his Finals sample, the Spurs should definitely offer him the opportunity to steal another honor from James.