Regular Season MVP? Playoff MVP Kawhi Is Aiming For The East And Much More, Taking A Page Out Of LeBron's "Road To Prosperity"
Kawhi Leonard proves yet again who the true MVP of this 2019 NBA Playoffs, putting an entire nation of Toronto on his back and just a game shy of their franchise's first NBA Finals appearance ever!
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kawhi Leonard.
Regular season MVP meets the Playoff MVP. Well at the least that's been the story throughout this Eastern Conference Finals series throughout it's five games thus far. Giannis entered this series in convincing fashion, leaving the Boston Celtics in absolute ruins following a game one loss at home. Giannis completely took ownership of that series, averaging 28.4 points, 11 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.6 blocks while shooting 52.3% from the field. He simply put on a prime-time clinic when matching up to his fellow team "leader" Kyrie Irving who only managed to average 20.4 points while shooting just 35.6% from the field. The worst a Boston Celtic has shot in the playoffs on at least 15 field goal attempts since 1966. Anyways that's not the point. We're here to talk about guys still in the playoffs, or at least barely.
I'll admit that Giannis has managed to shift my outlook regarding his abilities in the playoffs. Last season I credited much of Milwaukee's 2018 playoff jog to fellow Buck, Khris Middleton. Here's why. The NBA Playoffs or just playoffs in general when looking at any sport are when a player's talent to perform at the highest level are truly put to the ultimate test. They can either propel or absolutely stain a players legacy. Russell Westbrook. Cough. Cough. Anyways it's no secret.
In regards to Khris Middleton and why I bring his name up in this conversation is because he steps up to put most simply. Take a look at he turned it up last season for Milwaukee in the postseason.
In 82 games played for the 2017-18 season, Khris Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on 46.6%/35.9%/88.4% shooting from the field, three, and line. However when it came to a big round one against the Celtics, Middleton flipped the switch. In a pressure filled, seven-game series Middleton played a major role for the Bucks in averaging 24.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists on 59.8%/61.0%/73.7% shooting. He took just 0.5 shots more in that series than he did in the entire regular season which throws the whole “he took more shots” plea out the window.
Again there’s a reason that Giannis Antetokounmpo has been mentioned essentially since the start of the season for the MVP race. He’s managed to gather a strong case through his 72 games in the regular season along with a an added sweetner of 14 playoff games thus far.
However, there’s been one man in this NBA Playoffs who’s completely taken the biggest of steps forward in helping put not just his team, but an country on his back in efforts to take ownership of the East.
Kawhi Leonard is by far this season’s MOST Valuable Player when referring to the playoffs. His efforts are Lebron-esque to say the least. Now what do I mean by that aside from the fact that Kawhi has hit Toronto’s most clutch shot in the Raptors 23 years of existence? It’s simple. Many questioned the Raptors entering the playoffs and those questions surrounded one man... Kawhi Leonard. In the regular season Leonard played in just 60 games for Toronto which was the lowest (aside from 9 games last season) he’s played since 58 games played in the 2012-13 season for the San Antonio Spurs. That was also Kawhi’s second season in the NBA. Yet it appears as though while the East did lose Lebron, they gained Kawhi. He’s averaging 31.4 points per game which is the most of anyone besides James Harden who averaged 31.6 in Houston’s 11-game playoff run. Leonard has also shot 51.2% from the field, 41.1% from three, and 88.7% from the line. It’s insane how crucial he’s been, putting all of Toronto on his back throughout the playoffs. Now back to the LeBron comparison and how Kawhi has taken a page from Bron’s book. Leonard essentially did what we’ve seen LeBron do every season since the Miami Heat tenure. Take a step off the MVP tracks and save the gas for the playoffs. Leonard missed nearly 25% of the Raptors regular season in his first season with the organization and has brought the franchise a win shy of their first appearance in the NBA Finals. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a player earn jersey retirement honors his first year with a team, but if Leonard manages to put Milwaukee to bed, he’s got a case for that along with a album dedicated completely to him from Drake.
Remember this? Game seven against the 76ers that left millions in shock and Joel Embiid in tears. Yeah. Just one more win and Leonard adds quite the year to his resume. Game six is set for Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.