Kawhi Leonard is the MVP

By John Bernardo
Mar. 08, 2017

It will come down to two guys, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. The San Antonio Spurs and The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the most wins, are two of the best known teams, are the most consistent, and have the 2 best players in the league. Yes I said it, two best players. In my opinion, LeBron James is better than Kawhi Leonard. So why will Leonard win the MVP?

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Part of it is voter fatigue. LeBron James just won the finals. We know he's the best when he decides to turn it on. During the regular season he coasts. Coasting LeBron is averaging 27 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. I'm more than OK with that. He just won a finals, he's the best player in the league, he's been the best player in the league, and he deserves to play basketball on his terms. While Stepy Curry's star burned brighter, and Kevin Durant's meteoric rise rivaled LeBron at times, neither of those two guys had supernova staying power like LeBron. If you were drafting a team to play in a seven game series, you would pick LeBron. 

Another reason LeBron won't win is because we all acknowledge his greatness. It's like when Michael Jordan didn't win the MVP. Michael Jordan didn't win the MVP during '93, '94, '95, and '97. Granted Jordan did "retire" one of those years. But the other three? Charles Barkley, David Robinson, and Karl Malone. Would you take any of those guys over Jordan? Everyone knew Jordan was the best player in the league. Some players like Jordan and LeBron turn it up in the playoffs, we all know it, we all know they're the best, and it is what it is. 

And that's exactly why I'm giving Kawhi Leonard the MVP this year. He isn't waiting til the playoffs, he isn't slacking on defense, he isn't coasting, he is The Spurs, he seamlessly took over the post-Duncan era, he rotates on defense, he's great on the ball, he deserves the MVP. 

Normally I would look at the definition of MVP as, where would your team be without you? Looking at The Spurs without Kawhi does not do Kawhi justice. A Kawhi-less Spurs team is still pretty good. I credit that to coaching, The Spurs' roster, and The Spurs culture. But Kawhi takes The Spurs to another level while he is on the floor. And he's on the floor quite often. He's healthy, he's available, he doesn't do drama, he wants to win, he just wants to win in his own quiet way. He's clutch in the clutch. He gets up for games against good teams.

Last night The Spurs took down The Houston Rockets on a last minute sequence solely by Kawhi. Kawhi took a three to give The Spurs the lead. Then, Kawhi called off Danny Green so Kawhi could guard James Harden (one of the best scorers in the league in case you didn't know). Kawhi got screened at half court, slipped off the screen, and chased down Harden ultimately resulting in a block. Then, Kawhi stayed involved in the play, his teammate LaMarcus Aldrige blocked the ensuing shot, and Kawhi got the rebound. Then The Rockets fouled Kawhi and Kawhi calmly iced the game knocking down the free throws. Kawhi could've celebrated after making the three. He could've let Danny Green guard Harden for the last possession. He could've celebrated his block on Harden and forgot the rebound. He could've missed the free throws. He could've sat out and rested. But he didn't do any of those things.

This game is a microcosm of the season Kawhi is having. There's three or four guys in the league who can guard one through five. Kawhi, LeBron, Draymond Green, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. LeBron doesn't bring it every night like Kawhi does. The other two guys are admirable, but they're not in the MVP discussion.

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Unlike most people I consider defense a part of basketball. The MVP conversation is Kawhi, LeBron, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook's team is losing too much. Harden is great, but his team isn't as good as The Spurs or The Cavs. Plus Harden's defense is not even remotely close to Kawhi's. Kawhi is averaging 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists; LeBron is averaging 27-7-7. LeBron has better stats. So that leaves us with Kawhi VS LeBron.

As I illustrated above, I think Kawhi will and should get it over LeBron. Voter fatigue for LeBron. LeBron suffers from his own success. We have no one to compare LeBron to anymore. Everything is relative. LeBron has a spectacular night for any average basketball player, but for him it's ho hum. Where as Kawhi is the new style. Kawhi is playing 100% every night. He isn't taking plays off. He's not going on live TV saying "we need a fucking play maker". And for the record, that's not to say LeBron is in the wrong here. LeBron deserves to coast. He deserves to speak his mind. 

It's just that right now, Kawhi is having the more notable season, he's doing it with less help, he's carrying an old Tony Parker, a decent Danny Green, a complimentary LaMarcus Aldrige, and an old Pau Gasol. Kawhi's doing it in the tougher Western Conference. It's an extremely rare player whom, as they get better on offense, they don't let their defense slip. He's doing it. It's awesome to watch. He deserves it. Kawhi for MVP. 

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