With a single trade, Kawhi Leonard turned the misfortunes of the Toronto Raptors into a dream season as he put them team over the top and got them their first ever NBA Championship. Now, the newly-signed Clippers forward is reaping the rewards this off-season.
The two-time Finals MVP was named the best player in the NBA in a recent poll of coaches and league executives, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.
Here’s the complete list:
Kawhi Leonard – 12
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 6
James Harden – 2
Notice somebody missing? Yep, the one and only LeBron James got completely snubbed and received zero votes in that poll.
Out of the 20 anonymous league executives polled, not a single one felt that James was still worthy of the title of “league’s best player”.
The 34-year-old averaged 27.4 PPG, 8.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.3 steals a game for the Lakers and he still received zero recognition from the poll.
No executive seemed to speak as to why they didn’t pick LeBron but they had plenty to say about Harden, Giannis, and Leonard.
“Did you watch what just happened?” one Eastern Conference executive said with a laugh. (Referring to Leonard leading Raptors to a title)
Another summed it up this way: “Because if he plays every game in the playoffs, he’s the best player in the world. And if you can be good enough the rest of the way to get there, then great.”
“He’s the best two-way player,” an Eastern Conference assistant coach said of Antetokounmpo. “He gives it to you at both ends.”
“Giannis is coming strong,” said a Western Conference assistant who picked Leonard. “I think he’s gonna get that jump shot. He’s going to be improved. I think he’s that dude.”
“His scoring is just special,” an executive said, when asked to explain why Harden was his choice. “His ability to elevate a team with his offense as a passer and scorer is as good as it gets. To rely on him to carry an offense every night and stay healthy, he’d be my No. 1 guy.”