One of the many things experts and analysts of the NBA try to do before the start of each NBA season is to predict the league’s next MVP. This is the player that contributes the most to his team’s high level of success. He’s the guy that everyone wants to watch due to that absolute rampage that he’s been on throughout the season and nobody has been able to figure out.
James Harden was last year’s MVP after averaging leading the league in scoring with 30.4 points a night and guiding his Houston Rockets to the best record in the NBA at 65-17. This year a lot of people have LeBron James as the favorite as MVP, but I’m not so sure.
LeBron will be 34 years old this calendar year and will be trying to lead a very young and inexperienced Lakers Squad back to the Playoffs. I’m predicting the Lakers will make the Playoffs but for LeBron to win the MVP they would need to win at least 50 games and I don’t see that happening.
Other favorites are Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Russell Westbrook. All these are decent picks but I think they are missing out on Kawhi Leonard, and here’s why:
3. The Redemption
Kawhi left the Spurs on bad terms. He had been called out by Tony Parker for not playing with his injury and Kawhi felt that Coach Popovich hadn’t supported him enough when he was out injured.
Before this saga nearly everyone thought of Kawhi as the softly-spoken basketball savant who was in contention for the position of the 2nd best player in the NBA behind LeBron James. He is easily the best two-way player when healthy and his offensive game grows better every year.
Now that he’s in Toronto he will have a chance to really show what he's learned over the past few years. He will be 27 years old, right at the start of his prime. With good pieces around him like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Valanciunas Kawhi should be right back to his best on both ends of the court.
Kawhi is the best wing defender in the NBA, there’s no question about that. Draymond Green might be the best team defender but nobody matches Kawhi’s ability to shut down an opposing player. Just look at LeBron here when he sees Kawhi entering the game.
Kawhi is extremely long with huge hands, great athleticism and ferocious defensive instincts. He can guard 1 through 4 and is always tasked to defend the opposition’s best player. He won’t need to carry the offense with Toronto and so can focus on shutting down the other team’s best player, forcing steals and being a menace in the passing lanes.
Defense is always overlooked in my opinion when it comes to the MVP. It isn’t as glamorous as scoring lots of points or dishing out loads of assists but it is extremely important and Leonard has a chance to remind us of that this coming season.
Since entering the NBA, Kawhi has developed from a semi-decent role player on offense to a franchise cornerstone. After averaging a measly 7.9 points a game in his rookie year Kawhi averaged 25.5 in his last healthy season.
He has developed his 3 point shooting to the point where he’s one of the best in the league and has picked up a variety of moves to complement his outside game. He’s also lethal in transition with a much tighter handle than when he first entered the league.
Along with Lowry and Ibaka, Kawhi can spearhead this offensive trio either with or without the ball. Lowry is a very good offensive player and a Leonard/Lowry Pick and Roll should be very hard to contain.
The Raptors starting 5 will probably be Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Ibaka and Valanciunas. That is a very versatile lineup with lots of shooting, good defense, size and athleticism. If Kawhi can lead this group to a top 3 seed in the East whilst averaging 23-25 points a night whilst playing his usual stellar defense then he will definitely be a top 3 finisher for MVP this season.