Credit: USATSI

Kawhi Leonard has evolved his game in a way this league had never seen. He went from a good defender to an elite stopper, up to the point where he’s now as good of a scorer as he is when it comes to keeping his rivals in check.

More than that, Kawhi Leonard is a proven winner and elite playoff performer. He led the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever NBA Finals appearance, beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, and won his second ring and second Finals MVP.

And now that he’s performing at the highest level and the Los Angeles Clippers are the deepest team in the Western Conference and the biggest threat for the Los Angeles Lakers, Charles Barkley believes that he’s a ring away from being right behind LeBron James.

“If Kawhi is able to win his third MVP in the Finals, he might be right behind LeBron,” Chuck told Mike Greenberg of ESPN.

That’s not a crazy statement or an exaggeration whatsoever. Kawhi has won the NBA Finals 2 out of 3 times as an alpha dog. He’s won with two different franchises, and he’s a multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year winner.

Leonard still has plenty of basketball left in his tank, while LeBron James is likely in the sunset of his career at age 35. That means Kawhi will still have a couple of more chances to keep adding silverware to his impressive résumé.

Needless to say, they’re both completely different kinds of players and competitors but if The Klaw continues to dominate in the way he’s doing it, he might as well climb his way into Mt. Rushmore, even ahead of The King.