Kawhi Leonard has quickly established himself as the go-to guy for the San Antonio Spurs as the franchise begins its first season of the post-Tim Duncan era, something that should delight Spurs fans.
Leonard is hardly an unfamiliar face in the league or surprise in any way, as this of course is a man who at the age of 22 won an NBA Championship and Finals MVP while guarding LeBron James.
But it is a blessing for the Spurs to finally see Kawhi taking over games as the new NBA year begins, dominating them single-handedly, something many people have believed he is capable of for quite some time.
The current reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, Leonard has long been an immovable force on the defensive side of the ball, earning his nickname around the league, ‘The Claw’.
However, last year was the first season that Leonard appeared to become much more comfortable on the offensive side of the floor, expanding his game by rapidly improving the percentage of made buckets with his jumpshot.
Since leaving his college, San Diego State, in 2011 to enter the NBA Draft, Leonard has undergone a complete renovation of his shooting motion alongside San Antonio’s shooting coach Chip Engelland.
Kawhi has worked tirelessly to continue to improvement in his offensive game, and was rewarded last year, when he had one of the highest three-point shooting percentages in the NBA at 44.3%, a huge jump from his previous best of 37.9% in the 2014-15 campaign.
Leonard was tipped as one of the favourites for the Most Valuable Player Award this year by both journalists and bookmakers and will have certainly shortened his odds with his outstanding play in the Spurs opening two fixtures.
But now the question may be asked as to whether Leonard can become the third player, following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, to win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season?
It would certainly not be out of the question, as Kawhi entered the season as clear favourite to three-peat in the defensive category, so it will be his play on the attacking side of the ball which will be crucial to his success, and if the first two games are anything to go by, he most definitely has a chance.
As for the Spurs, they can move forward safe in the knowledge they have a new superstar in place to fill the void left by Duncan’s retirement, it will just remain to be seen if the success they enjoyed during his career can be replicated with Leonard…