Kawhi Leonard was chosen fifteenth in the 2011 NBA by the Indiana Pacers specifically to be traded (along with draft rights to Erazem Lorbek and David Bertans) for Spurs guard George Hill. In his six (healthy) seasons with the Silver & Black he averaged 16.3 points per game (increasing each and every season and has continued the trend since leaving San Antonio).
In 2014, Leonard took the torch from the Spurs’ Big 3 helping earn the franchise’s fifth title and claiming the Finals MVP for himself.
The following two years Kawhi was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year (while coming in second and third respectively for MVP voting).
Unfortunately, Leonard suffered a quadriceps injury that kept him out of all but an ennead of games in the 2017-2018 season. That offseason, on July 18 (coincidentally the only day of the year where none of the four major sports have a game) the big news was the trading of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick.
In a piece posted earlier this season, the argument was made that perhaps the Spurs had in many ways “won” that trade since considering Leonard and Green were no longer in Toronto and the Spurs retained DeRozan and Poeltl in the offseason as well as drafting Keldon Johnson in 2019 with that protected pick.
Expectedly, many believe the Raptors came out ahead because they won a title.
But here’s a bigger question as we go into tonight’s matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs - could Keldon Johnson’s career end up meaning more to the San Antonio Spurs once both players have long since hung up their jerseys?
If you are of the group of basketball fans who believe titles tell the tale, then it would be on Keldon to not only win an NBA Championship with the Spurs, but to also earn the Bill Russell Finals MVP statue in the process for the question to even be worthy of discussion.
And of course the entire discussion becomes moot if Johnson leaves or is traded.
But considering how good #3 looks right now, how fearless he is driving to the basket against the likes of Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, Zion Williamson, and Aron Baynes, and how beautifully his three-point shot has come along, it is hard not to get excited about the future (and present) of the one unknown factor of that historic 2018 trade.
In twenty-five years, which former Spurs player will be more revered by fans?
This poll is closed
2014 Finals MVP and two-time DPOY Kawhi Leonard
Will Spurs fans in 2045 look back and see Kawhi Leonard as more essential to the Spurs, or will Keldon Johnson carve out the kind of career fans are seeing a glimpse of this season and surpass one of the league’s best?