By Kyle Spencer
The NBA announced that Kawhi Leonard will receive the 2015-2016 Kia Defensive Player of the Year award.
It is only fitting that San Antonio, the league’s top defense, has the best defender in the NBA anchoring it. Looking at Leonard’s statistics throughout the season, “The Claw” finished the 2015-2016 season with a defensive rating of 94.9. Leonard also averaged 1.8 steals a game and 1 block per game as well.
The Spurs have had a franchise year. Finishing second in the west with a 67-15 record, which is the best regular season record in Spurs’ history. Leonard was a huge part of this success.
Let’s put that in perspective.
With Leonard on the floor, the Spurs are holding teams to about 91PPG per 48 minutes. With Leonard off the floor, teams are putting up about 96PPG per 48 minutes. That may just seem like a small margin, but for one player to impact as much as 5 points is huge.
Also, teams are shooting about 2.5% better from the field with Leonard on the bench. He has the ability to affect an entire team’s offensive production. That is truly incredible.
Andrew Monaco, Spurs sideline reporter for Fox Sports Southwest, said that Kawhi deserved the Defensive Player of the Year award for many reason but mainly, his work ethic, his ability to absorb coaching, his desire to guard the other team’s best scorer, and he his also a gym rat.
When you look at Kawhi alone he is built to be an incredible defender, Andrew Monaco explained what makes Kawhi special.
“The Combination of his strength, length, wingspan, foot speed, awareness and accepting the challenge makes Kawhi special.”
The scary thing is that the Spurs’ small forward is only into his 5th year in the league and has already accomplished so much. Even reaching the highest achievement of a NBA championship back in 2014. Leonard was also named the Finals MVP in that series against Miami. Oh, and a few more things, this is Leonard’s second DOPY and he was named to the all-star team for the first time earlier this season. Oh yeah, and he is only 24.
This shows what great coaching can do. Gregg Popovich took the young man under his wing and has turned Kawhi into a star. Awards like this don’t mean much to Pop, but the Spurs’ head coach did say he was happy for Kawhi, but gave the praise to his assistant coaches, Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier.
The Spurs are currently in the first round of the playoffs and lead the Memphis Grizzlies 1-0 in the series. In game one Kawhi showed why he deserved the award, recording four steals, three blocks, and helped the Spurs as a team hold Memphis to 76 points.
Game two against Memphis is April 19th in San Antonio at 9:30 ET.