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In a season filled with triple-doubles and other sexy offensive stats, does a two-way star Kawhi Leonard have any chance at MVP?
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David Aldridge: They do have League Pass where y'all come up with these questions, right? Then you saw Leonard's go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute Monday against Houston, followed immediately by his chasedown block of James Harden. That's all proponents of KL4MVP need to show, on a loop, the rest of the season. There isn't a hoarier chestnut in the Bag of Sports Cliches than "defense wins championships." Well, there's only one guy among the five or six legit MVP candidates who not only brings it every night at that end, but is required to by his team if it is to have any chance of winning. And that guy is also averaging 26 a game. My guess is Leonard won't win league MVP because the statistically historic seasons of Westbrook and Harden are too irresistible for too many voters. But he has a case, Lord, does he.
Steve Aschburner: Of course Kawhi Leonard has a chance. It’s a five-spot ballot and he’s in an elite group of four front-runners for the award that includes James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Leonard’s work on the defensive end will carry more weight with voters than any of the other players’. And based on the current standings, his team will have the most victories of those four, too. His numbers aren’t as gaudy as Westbrook’s and his game has taken an evolutionary step rather than Harden’s revolutionary one, but Leonard will get plenty of support.
Fran Blinebury: I didn't know it was now the SVP: Sexy Valuable Player. If voters are paying attention, taking both ends of the court seriously and seeing past the pinball machine point totals, Kawhi Leonard will win in a landslide.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Does he have a chance? Tough to say. He has generated a lot of buzz the last week in particular, but it’s impossible to know whether that will translate into crashing what has seemed to be a James Harden-Russell Westbrook party. Should he have a chance? Absolutely. At the very least, he has to be strongly considered. That’s how good Leonard is on both sides of the ball for one of the best teams.
Shaun Powell: There's a deep appreciation, as there should be, about Kawhi Leonard and how he made himself into a premier player and legit MVP candidate. His takedown of James Harden on Monday was impressive. Should he be a candidate? Of course. Should he win? Not on my ballot, if Russell Westbrook pulls off a triple-double. Reason is simple: I've seen a Kawhi Leonard-type performance before. I've never seen someone average a triple-double before.
John Schuhmann: Both ends of the floor should always be considered, and considered equally, when determining the MVP. And Leonard absolutely needs to be in the conversation with five weeks left in the season. Still, when you have guys -- James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook -- carrying such a huge offensive load, that can make up for not being a lock-down defender. I'm still leaning toward Harden, who is carrying that huge load for the No. 2 offense in the league. Leonard is the go-to guy on a top-five offense as well, but the Spurs' success -- more than the success of the Rockets, Cavs or Thunder -- is about the ensemble.
Sekou Smith: He absolutely has a chance. A lot can happen down the stretch of a season that houses one of the most hotly contested MVP competitions in recent memory. It's not just a James Harden-Russell Westbrook battle. Leonard, LeBron James and (pre-injury) Kevin Durant all had strong cases. Leonard has no peer, not even LeBron, when it comes to being able to play at astronomical level on the defensive end. The fact that he's married his much-improved offensive arsenal to it this season only serves to highlight the true brilliance of his game. It's not the Spurs' system, folks. It's Kawhi. And he belongs in the thick of the MVP conversation until the very end.
Ian Thomsen:Should he have a chance? Absolutely. Tim Duncan retired after 19 playoff seasons and five championships – and yet the Spurs haven’t appeared to be suffering as Leonard has continued to elevate. The injury to Kevin Durant further increases the possibility that Leonard could lead San Antonio to the championship, based on his scoring as well as his defensive leadership. My vote right now would go to James Harden, but Leonard ought to be on the short list with Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Having said all of that, the answer to your question is no -- Leonard has no chance at MVP, based on the insane numbers by Harden and Westbrook that will hoard the votes. But he should.
Lang Whitaker: Sure! Actually, his MVP candidacy is similar to his game: unheralded, underrated, but completely valid. Kawhi is awesome, but so are Westbrook and Harden and LeBron. That said, if Russell Westbrook ends the season averaging a triple-double --AVERAGING A TRIPLE-DOUBLE -- I'm not sure how anyone can't vote for Russ.