Kawhi Leonard is probably not going to win the NBA’s MVP award, despite what our NBA 2K simulation says. He is in the running, and he has been one of the four-best basketball players on earth this season, but it is going to be difficult justifying his two-way brilliance for the second-best team in the league over Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double, James Harden consistently playing out of his mind, or LeBron James having one of his best years ever.
But there’s something that kind of gets forgotten when Leonard’s name comes up in the MVP race: It’s completely fine if he doesn’t win the award this year. We can discuss his credentials all day, but really, this was his first year as the face of the Spurs’ franchise. He going to turn 26 this summer. If this year isn’t the year that Leonard is regarded as the most valuable basketball player on earth, that’s fine. He has time.
Instead, Leonard has a more singular focus, something that would show his value to the Spurs more than any individual trophy.
For all of us to remember 2016-17 as a potentially legacy-defining year, Kawhi Leonard has to be the driving force in a Western Conference Finals win over the Golden State Warriors.