Regular season MVP Kevin Durant of OKC Thunder took to Twitter to play down some of the hype around Kawhi Leonard.
We all saw Kawhi Leonard grow up in front of our eyes during the NBA Finals as he delivered on the biggest stage of them all. But just how good is Leonard? Does he compare to some of the league’s best small forwards? Paul George, for example?
Durant evidently does no think Leonard has reached that upper echelon of small forwards made up of the likes of himself and George. After a fan claimed on Twitter that he’d prefer Leonard in a team over George, Durant had this to say:
Durant later deleted his tweets, but his comments raise some interesting questions. First off, one has to imagine the frustration that Durant must have experienced watching the NBA Finals at home after winning the regular season MVP.
Furthermore, watching a 22-year-old Leonard win the Finals MVP as a small forward must have only made Durant think of what could have been.
Durant is right to some extent. Giving one of the Spurs an individual accolade is almost paradoxical when one watches them play basketball. Their system is how the Spurs carved up the Miami Heat up and all Spurs players must be able to fit into and thrive in that system. Even Gregg Popovich joked that while Leonard may think he did it all himself, the Larry O’Brian Trophy belongs to everyone in the organization.
However, it does make one think about what would happen if Leonard was taken out of the Spurs team and, as Durant suggests, George was placed on the Spurs team.
George is fantastic player who fits the Spurs mould down to a tee. A fantastic defender who can hit the three-pointer, George actually has a lot of similarities in his game to Leonard. Whether George would be alright with taking a back seat in an offensive system though remains unknown.
When it comes to Leonard, however, it’s hard to judge how he would cope if he was taking 20-25 shots a night as the focal point of an offence as George does in Indiana.
Leonard took 15 or more shots only 4 times in the regular season as compared to George’s 56 and while Leonard shot 52.2% from the field, almost 10% higher than George’s 42.4%, it’s hard to imagine Leonard’s efficiency would translate across a larger sample size.
This is not say that Leonard could not operate as a teams primary scorer, it’s just that we’re never likely to see him in such a role while he’s at San Antonio and while San Antonio are winning championships, I’m not sure why Leonard would want to leave.