If there was any doubt that Kawhi Leonard belongs in the NBA MVP race for the 2017 season, the San Antonio Spurs star just put an end to it.
With one sequence against the Houston Rockets on Monday night, Leonard proved why he’s one of the most athletic—and valuable—players in the entire league.
Down 108-107 to the Rockets with less than 30 seconds left, the Spurs’ small forward swished a cold-blooded shot from three-point range with a man in his face to give his team a two-point lead:
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 7, 2017
But he wasn’t done.
The 2015-16 back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner then rejected James Harden’s drive to the hoop with an emphatic block from behind, and then swatted away a second attempt by Houston to take the lead.
Making it even more impressive—Leonard ended up with the rebound after the shot was blocked:
Relive Kawhi’s crazy sequence, in all the angles: pic.twitter.com/ezMbeko3Nx
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 7, 2017
After making such amazing plays on both ends of the floor, Leonard found something waiting for him in the locker room: A random drug test from the NBA.
The test delayed Leonard from addressing the media after the game.
“Kawhi wanted it badly,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said to ESPN. “And he went in and took it.”
That final note was somewhat fitting after the performance that Leonard had. Even though testing is random, you could almost understand why the league wanted to make sure Leonard was clean after the way he played.
The quiet superstar had 39 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks, ending the game with an emphatic all-around play that displayed his value on both ends of the floor—and boosted his bid for the MVP award.
“The block [at the end of the game] is what makes him special,” Popovich said. “Obviously, the 3, you know Harden makes 3s. Kawhi makes 3s. This guy makes 3s, that guy makes 3s. Steph [Curry] makes 3s. Everybody does that. But I don’t know who goes to the other end and does what he does—not that many people on a consistent basis, and entire game, game after game.”
Many around the NBA see players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, and LeBron James as the top MVP candidates for 2017, but Leonard is thrusting himself into the conversation with his overall play this season.
Leonard is averaging a career-best 26.3-points, 3.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per game and likely will win his third-straight defensive player of the year award.
He just might add an MVP too.