Kawhi Leonard is averaging 1.6 personal fouls per game so far in his Toronto Raptors career, despite playing a career high 34.3 minutes per game for Toronto. The pristine defense of Leonard isn’t the result of lax effort either, but its opposite: Leonard is averaging 1.6 steals too — an even match. (He’s averaged just 1.7 fouls for his career, even as he often matches up against the opposing team’s top scorer.)
Leonard’s move to Toronto was indisputably the biggest Eastern Conference move of the 2018-19 NBA season — defensively and offensively — that is, until Jimmy Butler arrived in Philadelphia adding veteran leadership and defensive ferocity to the young, talent-packed 76ers roster.
Butler, like Leonard, plays a brand of defense that just really doesn’t include fouls. Butler committed just 21 fouls in his first ten games with the Sixers, averaging 2.1 fouls a game. As with Leonard, Butler’s steals figure — at 2.0 per game — is a near match with his fouls. These are the two best big wing men in the Eastern Conference on defense. If one of them can get the other in foul trouble, that could tip the scales for these two teams that may be warming up for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown.