Kawhi Leonard has never been an All-Star. Let that sink in for a moment. He was MVP of the 2014 Finals, during which he matched up against LeBron James just about as well as anybody could ever hope to, and he was recently named the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year. Despite those accolades, he’s never been voted in by the fans or hand-selected by the coaches as an All-Star reserve. But all that’s about to change, if Leonard has anything to do with it.
While hosting his annual youth basketball camp in Moreno Valley, the normally soft-spoken forward told reporters that has some pretty lofty career ambitions. Via David Zink of The Press Enterprise:
“I want to to be an (NBA) all-star and MVP of the regular season,” said Leonard. “I’m trying to be one of the greatest players so whatever level that consists of is where I want to take my game.”
At just 24, Leonard could potentially evolve into a perennial All-Star for years to come, especially as Tim Duncan inches closer and closer to retirement and Leonard transitions into his rightful role as franchise cornerstone, but when you look at the list of frontcourt players in the Western Conference with legitimate All-Star credentials, it certainly won’t be a cakewalk. He’ll be contending with players like Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, and DeMarcus Cousins, not to mention his fellow teammate LaMarcus Aldridge (and maybe even Duncan, although his role will likely be reduced given the acquisition of Aldridge).
Likewise, the regular season MVP race won’t get any easier, when you consider that the front-runners from last season – Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden – are just entering their prime, along with up-and-comers like Anthony Davis and old stalwarts like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the latter of whom will have something to prove after an essentially lost season in 2014-2015.
Still, Leonard’s prowess as one of the league’s best two-way players and his emergence as the Spurs’ primary option should keep him in the conversation for all sorts of awards for years to come.
(via The Press Enterprise)