Kawhi Leonard put the basketball world on notice last season when he almost single-handedly willed the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship in franchise history. Instead of further cementing his legacy in the Six, however, he opted to team up with Paul George on the Los Angeles Clippers this past summer and seek out a new challenge.
Now, the spotlight on Leonard will be bigger than ever, and his extraordinary campaign in 2018-19 despite coming off a baffling leg injury suggests that it's absolutely time for him to take the reins as the Association's best player.
He just has to reach out and grab them.
As of right now, we wholeheartedly agree with Complex's top three of LeBron James, Kawhi, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Any Milwaukee Bucks stans out there who think otherwise should remember that Leonard bossed Giannis, the reigning league MVP, around in the past summer's Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron is still the King, but he's on a gradual decline as he enters his age-35 season. Leonard, conversely, may be primed to dethrone him with stellar showing on par with that of last season, minus the load management (he's coming off appearing in just 60 regular season games). The two-time Finals MVP set career-highs in points and rebounds per game; overall, Kawhi logged a 27-7-3 line while averaging 1.8 steals, shooting 49.6% from the floor, and 37.1% from beyond the arc before being even better in the postseason.
Stats, of course, won't tell the whole story in 2019.
Should Leonard lead the Clips to an NBA Finals appearance or a world title this season, the mantle of the NBA's best player will almost certainly be his. He's 28 years old, in the prime of his career, and is simply too good to take a back seat to PG13 in La La Land.
The glory is there for the taking, and we will be consummately disappointed if Kawhi doesn't run with it.