5 years ago, Kawhi Leonard was a fresh face on the scene to most. He was a piece to the San Antonio Spurs dominance. The young glue, that help the legends like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan win their 5th NBA Championship. Kawhi would walk away from that NBA Finals as its MVP. What seemed to be a player out of the shadows, quiet but dominant defender, has morphed into arguably the second best player in the NBA.
In 2014 he was an addition to the Spurs trio; now in 2019, a year removed from the Spurs, and in Toronto, Canada with the Raptor, Kawhi Leonard has officially had his moment where we can say ” He has arrived.” In the second round of the NBA playoffs, The Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors set the stage that will become Kawhi’s coming out party.
Kawhi played an exceptional series against the Sixers, averaging 34.7 points in the series. He carried the Raptors to a place they’ve only been to once in their franchise history; the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2001, the Raptors and the Sixers faced off again in the second round of the playoffs. In that match-up, it was the Allen Iverson and the Sixers who came out victorious. Vince Carter, a super star back then, put up a game winning shot that bounced off the rim sending the 76ers to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But in part 2 of the Raptor/Sixers, it was Kawhi Leonard who would throw up the buzzer beater, and like Vince Carter shot 18 years ago, Kawhi’s shot bounced on the rim; not once, but three times before it would slowly fall through.
Kawhi, and quiet and somewhat emotionless player (a Spurs player trait), screamed to the top of his longs with joy. Kawhi had sealed the deal, for the Raptors.
Now with the Sixers in books, Kawhi and the Raptors must turn their attention to the Greek Freak and the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo, is pushing for the league MVP. He is a monster scorer from the inside, and a mismatch for most. But in the Eastern Conference Finals, he will meet the perfect match. Kawhi is just as good as the Greek Freak is on offense, and might be better on defense. He has the will and strength to hold the Greek Freak just enough to get the Raptors to squeeze by. That is if the other Raptors step up.
The perfect storm for two franchises with two super stars growing before our eyes. The next generation of basketball players at their best, vying for a shot to play, most likely, the Golden State Warriors.