As the teams with the two top records face off against one another, it is important to give recognition to one of the unsung leaders of the sport. This player's reserved personality keeps him out of the public eye and because of this he is not always in the conversation of the top players. Even though every time he takes the court against your team, your fanbase nervously watches because they know that there is no one complete way to shut him down. His nickname is the Klaw, his real is Kawhi Leonard but for the sake of this article let's call him the Kawhi-et Leader.
1. The ability to dominate without words
When people think of a leader it is usually assumed that it is someone who is very vocal. The individual is able to connect with the rest of the people they are working with an form a cohesive unit. This is especially true in team sports because communication plays an important part in being able to execute different plays and being able to form a bond with your teammates on and off the court. Since Kawhi Leonard entered the league he has consistently displayed his quiet temperament. At first executives and players across the league perceived him to be conceited and act as if he did not want to be a full part of the team. Despite this Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs were determined to take their chances with him and uncover his full potential. That decision definitely paid off for the organization as Leonard helped lead them to an NBA championship in 2014. Kawhi also won the finals MVP even at the young age of twenty-two.
A few seasons have passed and over this past summer, Kawhi Leonard was dealt in a trade to the Toronto Raptors. Leonard did not request a trade to Toronto, and many fans were left wondering how he would feel about playing in a new city. Raptors fans worldwide welcomed him with excitement and anticipation in hopes of how far he could take next year's team.
Kawhi Leonard and his supporting cast finished the regular season with the record of 58-24. This was the second-best record in the entire NBA only trailing the Milwaukee Bucks who finished two games ahead. Kawhi led the Raptors in some of their toughest games this season without saying a word. He hit the clutch-time shots when it was most needed and is able to consistently produce. He also isn't afraid to guard the opposing team's best offensive player and when he does you can be assured they will feel the pressure.
Unlike other all-stars, you won't see Leonard seeking recognition for his stellar performances night in and night out. I can promise you that you won't see him talking to the media very often. It is a rare occasion for him to share his thoughts and because of this journalists intentionally seek him out for interviews. It seems that there is a mystery factor that drives a curiosity for people to want to know him better.
2. A complete player on both offense and defense
On almost every NBA talk show one of the most commonly asked questions is "What star player would you choose to lead your franchise"?. Often you hear names such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant or Giannis Antetokounmpo. While I agree that those choices are valid, I believe that Kawhi Leonard should be in the conversation. If I was to be asked who I would build my future team around he would be the player I would name.
The reason I would choose Kawhi Leonard is that he is a complete player on both offense and defense. He proved this by receiving the defensive player of the year award twice in the past four years. He also has been named to 3 All NBA first team defense and two times to All NBA second team defense. Leonard's size, athleticism, and the freak like size of his hands allow him to be one of the best defenders not only in the league currently but of all-time.
Offensively, Kawhi Leonard continues to become a better scorer. In his eighth year in the league, he is averaging a career high in points with 26.6 points per game. This is the seventh highest scoring average in the league. He also grabs 7.3 rebounds a game and dishes out 3.3 assists. He is an unselfish player who is able to make the right passes at the right time. Just by watching Kawhi in a single game any fan has the ability to witness his amazing basketball IQ.
The series between the raptors and bucks has been one that fans have anxiously waited for as they wait to see if the Kawhi-et leader will be able to bring this team to a championship. The series is currently tied at 2-2 although the Raptors seem to have the momentum on their side. No doubt that this is due to Kawhi's calm composure and proven leadership.