Numbers show Kawhi Leonard should top list for MVP consideration

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Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs have been under the radar for too long.

Far, far too long.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook are getting all the publicity for MVP consideration, but it's time Leonard joins the front of the pack and not just a cursory mention as a guy who needs to be mentioned but not seriously considered.

The former San Diego State star has been politely glossed over by NBA pundits the past couple years, probably in part because of his understated demeanor: He's not exactly the magnetic personality the league hopes for with its top players.

But that doesn't mean he can't ball with anyone in the league.

Harden and Westbrook have been compiling loads of traditional statistics, both averaging right around a triple-double in points, rebounds and assists.

However, if you take a deeper look, as Spurs staffer Jordan Howenestine did here, Leonard can be placed above them all.

Oh, and he might just be playing on the NBA's best team.

Marc Stein of ESPN released his latest power rankings on Monday and has the Spurs at No. 1, in part because of the knee injury to Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors.

He notes the Spurs have two home games left against the Warriors, including this Saturday. That could be enough to help make up for the current 2.5-game deficit San Antonio has in the Western Conference race.

And there's no doubt Leonard is the best player on his team, which wrapped up its 20th straight playoff berth over the weekend.

Check out these numbers from a San Antonio reporter about Leonard's leading of the Spurs.

Of course, the MVP debate one that will rage in every season for every sport, especially when the parameters for the discussion are so fluid.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, speaking to GiveMeSport before Saturday's win against the Chicago Bulls, outlined his criteria. 

"I would say the guy who is most valuable to his team. That would be the most valuable in the league," Rivers said. "That doesn't necessarily say the guy that is playing the best, you know what I'm saying?

"But your team has to do well for you to win it. I think that's where we have to be careful, because 'well' could mean 40 games, 41 games, where without you, they would win no games. Sometimes the other guys have better players on their team, so they win more games."

There's a lot of ambiguity in statements like that and awards like the MVP.

But if you look at numbers and team success, Kawhi is up there with anyone.

San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
L.A. Clippers
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
James Harden
Houston Rockets
Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division

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