Perhaps the most disruptive player not named Steph Curry currently trampling the NBA hardwood, San Antonio wingman Kawhi Leonard continues to quietly annihilate any being who steps in his way. As he’s gradually improved over the years, from a defensive force with little offensive intent to the all-around heart and soul of an always prosperous Spurs franchise, the Claw has transformed himself into one of the game’s most breathtakingly well-polished talents. He’s fit with a wealth of athletic ability and the humble nature of a future bandwagon. Last season he tightly laminated all the MVP-themed chatter as he secured his first NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Expectations for the blossoming forward were sky high entering this season, and there was really no sky to halt them. Following this season, in which his Spurs finished with the league’s top defense, Kawhi Leonard naturally added a legendary piece of heavy metal to his shelf for a second straight year – winning the 2015-16 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. He becomes the first non-center to earn the honor in back-to-back seasons since Dennis Rodman in the early ’90s.
Forget the DPOY award, the 84 first-place votes and 547 total points he received from 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada, and the 126-point lead he had over second-straight-year runner-up Draymond Green (421 points). And forget how frustrated Lance Stephenson and literally every other NBA player gets while being defended by said star..
Instead, embrace his bullish offensive production, because that’s really what separates Kawhi Leonard from, say, an Andrei Kirilenko.
While 7.9 points per game as a rookie to 21.2 as a fifth-year is certainly impressive, it’s Kawhi’s field goal percentage consistency amid a perennial increase in attempts that has us Kawhildin’ out. In order of season (starting with his ’11-’12 rookie campaign), Leonard finished with field goal percentages of .493, .494, .522, .479, and most recently .506 despite drastically increasing his field goal attempts – 404, 526, 645, 822, and 1,090, respectively.
What a beautifully gradual increase in production from the budding star, who was perfectly groomed by leader-of-men Gregg Popovich. Naturally this was a glorious season for Kawhi and his Spurs’ franchise-record 67-15 finish. But what really gets San Antonio going is the future sustainability that Kawhi Leonard offers this squad. Looks like they’re set for another 18 milleniums.
Leonard will attempt to become the second player to win three straight DPOY awards next season, after Dwight Howard did it between 2009-2011, and should have the DPOY record in his back pocket before the age of 30.
But the question remains, who is Kawhi Leonard?