Given what Steph Curry is doing to the game of basketball, there’s no real point in debating who this year’s MVP will be. But there is some fun to be had in tracking who will finish second—let’s call it the Non-Curry MVP race—and right now the guy at the head of that pack is Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard is no longer just a three-and-d cog in the Spurs’ whirring basketball machine; he’s a destroyer all on his own. Last night, he scored 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting while helping to hold Paul George to a 1-for-14 night. That game, and particularly the GIF above, is a pretty good summary of how Leonard’s season has been going. So are these stats:
Leonard has been the Spurs’ future for a while now, and though his improvement has been steady and remarkable, I doubt even the Spurs thought that he was ever going to be this good. What they have now is a supremely efficient scorer—only six players in history have joined the 50/40/90 club—who also happens to be one of the league’s best defenders. Leonard has jumped into a realm that’s been occupied by the likes of Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Larry Bird on the offensive end, all while still averaging two steals per game and holding his opponents to 42 percent shooting. It’s really a shame that the Non-Curry MVP award isn’t a real thing, because Leonard is on pace to become one hell of a runner-up.