Kawhi Leonard took himself out of the best player in the NBA debate. In fact, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were the two best players on the floor over both Kawhi and Paul George in the Los Angeles Clippers embarrassing game 7 elimination by the Denver Nuggets.
While there is plenty of blame to go around for what happened to LA, a performance like that where Kawhi went just 6-22 from the field for 14 points with zero in the fourth quarter as his team blew a 3-1 lead, is particularly damaging for Leonard, because he lacks the statistical profile of the GOATs.
Much of his reputation was based on a winning mystique. And after voluntarily leaving a championship team and seeing them go just as far as he did the next season, that rep takes a hit, with many now likely to point out his two championships came in the overall structure of the San Antonio Spurs and in a season where both the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James were injured.
I’m not one to attempt to discredit a great player and Leonard is still that. I’ll always consider what he did with Toronto special, but given the Clippers collapse and the Raptors spirited title defense, it isn’t out of the question to wonder about him as the true leader of a team.
And when it comes to being at the top of the league, that is something that will only get harder as the likes of Kevin Durant return and the likes of Luka Doncic emerge. Then there’s the standard that really makes most of the criticism Leonard will receive somewhat unfair, but in order to be considered the best player in the game, you’ve gotta be mentioned in the same breath as LeBron.
Simply put, that’s somewhere Kawhi’s name just doesn’t belong.