Countdown to NBA 2019: Most Valuable Player Candidates, #6

The NBA regular season starts in 1 week! But wait, this timeline doesn’t add up. Well, that’s because #1 on our countdown will be the day before the opening tip. Day 0 is opening night! So now let’s get started on our latest MVP candidate: last seasons NBA Finals MVP.

#6 Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard is the soft-spoken hero that we all need. A man of few words or desire for the spotlight, Kawhi simply takes care of business on the court. Last year’s Finals MVP is widely regarded as the best overall defender in the NBA. Kawhi is routinely tasked with shutting down the other potential MVP candidates we’ve seen on this countdown. But, Kawhi is not a one-trick pony! No no no, Kawhi is just as dangerous on the offensive end of the court as he is on the defensive end. In his championship run with the Toronto Raptors last season, Kawhi averaged a career-high in points, rebounds, and minutes per game. The latter of which is key for Kawhi as he has had a plethora of things that kept him from suiting up every night. This past season, in conjunction with Joel Embiid, the term “load management” took the NBA by storm. Essentially, teams would use this term to warrant giving players off-days on game days to avoid fines for sitting star players. In the past, teams like the San Antonio Spurs (Kawhi’s first team) would wait until right before tip-off to rule players out for games. The NBA did not like this as it would mean games on national TV would lack star-power. For Kawhi, his MVP odds take a hit simply because he is not playing the same amount of games as other candidates. But, when does play, Kawhi is one of the very best players in the entire NBA. With a PER of 25.89 (league average is 15.00), Kawhi was 7th best in the NBA last season. Kawhi has earned the following accolades in his career so far: 2x Finals MVP, 2x NBA Champion, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 3x All NBA, and 3x All-Star. This season, Kawhi would look to obtain his 3rd Championship with yet another different squad. Kawhi has formed a super-team in L.A. for the Clippers alongside fellow potential MVP candidate Paul George. Will the tandem of the leagues best defenders be able to carry the Clippers to the Finals?

Kawhi is currently at +850 (Bovada) to win the NBA MVP award. Do you think Kawhi will win the MVP? Let me know in the comments below!

-Mitchell Seefeldt

Chensiyuan [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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