Kawhi Leonard Wins Defensive Player of the Year Award

By Drew James

It’s been an exciting year for Kawhi Leonard, the defensive energy player from San Diego State that’s quickly evolved into one of the best and most well-rounded players in the NBA. He missed 18 games earlier this season, and his absence ultimately led to one of the worst stretches of basketball that San Antonio has played since Tim Duncan came into the league.

The last quarter of the season, though, was phenomenal. Kawhi at last found a consistent sense of confidence, as he begin showing off his wide array of fade-away jumpers, runners, and post-moves to take over games. To go with all of that, his defense even looked improved towards the end of the year. The energy and momentum he created on the offensive end seemed to be getting him hyped up for the other side of the court, and he quickly became a scorer’s worst nightmare.

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Kawhi led the league in defensive rating, allowing 98 points per 100 possessions, and finished 2nd in defensive Real Plus-Minus, a stat gathered by the statisticians at ESPN.com that measures the overall impact players have on a game. (Perhaps even more impressive: Leonard actually finished 2nd in overall Real Plus-Minus, putting his production ahead of the entire league except for Stephen Curry.)

Today, he is rewarded. “Sugar K Leonard” has just been named the NBA’s defensive player of the year, in a season in which it was a tight contest, with Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, and Deandre Jordan having excellent seasons behind him. It’s an award that the hard-working small forward can be proud of, one that sometime finds a way to elude some of the best defenders of all time. Neither Scottie Pippen or Tim Duncan were able to get their hands on the award, despite how dominant they were on that end of the court.

It’s a huge milestone for the twenty three year old, and certainly another promising sign for the Spurs future, as fans hope Leonard can be the guy to be the franchise player when Duncan is gone. Currently, the newly named Defensive Player of the Year is facing off against fellow candidate Deandre Jordan, who may have an extra chip on his shoulder when game 3 comes along.

The last Spur to win the award was David Robinson, who averaged 4.5 blocks and 2.3 steals per game the same year in 1991-92. He’s the third player to represent San Antonio with the award, along with the aforementioned Admiral and all-star guard Alvin Robertson, who won the award in 1985-86.

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