Why Kawhi? Making Leonard’s Case for MVP

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As the NBA postseason wears on and talks of the MVP race heat up each night, it’s easy to say that there is no clear consensus as to who should win the MVP trophy.  It seems like most people in the country think that the decision is going to come down to Harden or Westbrook, wins vs. triple doubles.  Well, in an age where anything can happen during voting season, an outsider may have a better chance at winning the MVP this year- and that outsider is Kawhi Leonard.  I think that if anyone deserves the MVP, its Leonard, and here is why:

Kawhi is the best all-around player in the league

Amongst players who logged at least 1500 minutes this past season, Kawhi Leonard was the only one to finish in the top half of the league in all nine of the following categories: (data courtesy of Basketball Reference)

OFFENSE VALUE PERCENTILE
Usage 31.2% 96th
True shooting 61.1% 90th
Turnovers 9.0% 82nd
Assists 19.1% 71st
Offensive rebounds 3.8% 59th
DEFENSE VALUE PERCENTILE
Steals 2.7% 96th
Blocks 1.8% 73rd
Defensive Real Plus-Minus +0.9 71st
Defensive rebounds 15.8% 62nd

Every other player in the league was in the lower 50th percentile for at least one of the statistical categories.  This shows that Kawhi is the best all-around player in the game.  Not only does he have a deadly shooting touch, he is one of the best defenders in the NBA.  This lethal combination makes him truly unique in terms of skill-set in the NBA.

Speaking of defense….

Did I mention that Kawhi Leonard is the best defensive player in the league?  He is the two time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and figures to be named it a third time this year.  So there’s that…920x920

The Wins > Stats Argument

There has been lots of talk lately, namely from a certain bearded Houston Rocket (hmmm…), about what constitutes an MVP winner.  Should it be given to the player with the best stats, or the best player on the best team?  If the prevailing school of thought is that it should be based more on wins, then there is simply no better candidate than Leonard.   The Spurs finished with the second best record in the league.  And if the argument is that it should be given to the best stats, then the case can certainly be made for Leonard since he was the best all-around player in the league.

Although no one can be sure who will win the MVP, it is going to be a controversial outcome for sure.  It is hard to imagine Westbrook not winning the award, but don’t be surprised if we hear Kawhi’s name instead.  He is simply too good to not consider as a dark horse for the race- much like his Spurs are dark horse championship contenders year in and year out.

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