San Antonio Spurs All-Time Lists

Spurs' 5 Best defenders of the 21st century

Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen
Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen / Lisa Blumenfeld/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Joe Johnson, Kawhi Leonard / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

2. Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard has one fewer NBA All-Defensive selection than Bowen, but keeping LeBron James to only 26 points across two Finals matchups and winning Finals MVP for his effort in 2014 helps his case a lot. 

Oh, two Defensive Player of the Year awards makes a strong case too. 

Leonard was the best defender in the entire league during his Spurs tenure. Sure, it ended on sour terms, but there’s no denying his greatness. He averaged 1.8 steals during his seven seasons with the Spurs, leading the league with 2.3 in 2015. For context, Murray has averaged 1.4 during his career, so Kawhi was clearly the better defender.

Leonard came into the league with one job: guard the best player on the other team. He did it well until the 2015-16 season when he also became the Spurs’ best offensive player. At that point, Leonard was perhaps the greatest two-way player since Kobe or Jordan. Impressive company to be in for sure. 

I know it’s popular and fun to rag on Kawhi. I know I’ve done it plenty of times myself. But this list is about appreciating greatness, and since 2000, Leonard has made a strong case to be in the conversation for one of the best defensive players period, not just within the Spurs’ organization.

His resumé speaks for itself. His best seasons came in a Spurs jersey, and when he retires and gets inducted into the Hoops Hall, it might be as a member of this franchise.