2016-17 Record: 61-21 (2nd in West)
Players Added: Jarron Blossomgame (Draft), Matt Costello (FA), Rudy Gay (FA), Darrun Hilliard (FA), Joffrey Lauvergne (FA), Brandon Paul (FA), Derrick White (Draft)
Players Lost: Joel Anthony (FA), Dewayne Dedmon (FA), David Lee (FA), Jonathon Simmons (FA)
Projected Team MVP: Kawhi Leonard
Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double on the way to the NBA MVP award and James Harden’s ridiculous performance landed him in the No. 2 spot. However, a real case could be made that Kawhi Leonard deserved more consideration and, given the accolades of the two Western Conference guards, that says quite a bit about San Antonio’s superstar forward. By any description, Leonard’s unbelievable performance (25.5 points per game on 49/38/88 shooting) on the offensive end was better than expected but it is, of course, his two-way brilliance that makes the Spurs go.
If Leonard isn’t the best defensive player in the world (hello, Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert), he is certainly on the short list. Because of the massive workload he carries offensively, that is extremely difficult to maintain but, in 2016-2017, Leonard was able to do it and he’ll be asked to put that kind of all-around effort together once again. It is conceivable that his three-point shooting wasn’t fully sustainable but, if anything, there is probably room to grow as a play-maker and Leonard’s overall profile at the age of 26 is quite tantalizing.
Kawhi Leonard will never be the trendiest player in the league or one that dominates the news cycle like Westbrook, Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Steph Curry. He’s still fantastic and the Spurs need him to be just that.