What’s the obvious? That basketball is a two-way game — offense and defense. In a year that presents a supposedly wide-open NBA MVP race — a strange year in which the two-time defending MVP Steph Curry isn’t often mentioned — Kawhi Leonard stands out. But people miss Leonard because, ironically, he doesn’t stand out. He just goes about his business. Leonard is quiet, thorough, dominant, modest and efficient — like the Spurs themselves.
Spurs fans and Leonard’s teammates don’t miss Leonard, of course. He’s as big as the sun in San Antonio. Opposing coaches surely don’t miss Leonard either — he’s a load to prepare for every single night. Leonard has won an MVP award before — he was given the NBA Finals MVP named after the great Bill Russell for his exceptional performance during the Spurs 2014 championship. He won that award for the same reason he should win this year’s NBA MVP — because the best player plays both offense and defense at an exalted level. Look at Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and former Spur Tim Duncan — between the three they made the NBA All-Defensive First Team 26 times. That’s how you win. Of all this year’s candidates — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden — only LeBron James approaches Leonard’s achievements on the defensive end. Defense is half the game. It’s valuable — the key word in most valuable player. The NBA MVP argument should really come down to just two guys — Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.