Kawhi Leonard vs. John Wall: Player of the Decade
We now move to the bottom left portion of the bracket in Overtime Heroics Player of the Decade bracket. Next up in the bracket is last years NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard taking on elite point guard John Wall. Kawhi was drafted in 2011 from San Diego State and had a phenomenal decade with the Spurs, Raptors and Clippers. Wall was drafted in 2010 out of Kentucky and led a consistently good Washington Wizards squad all decade. But who had a great impact on the league and who was the overall better player? Let’s dive in and look at the pros and cons of both player and who Overtime Heroics has as the better player.
Pros of Kawhi Leonard
- Phenomenal Defender: Kawhi earned the nickname the claw due to his large hands and smothering defense. Kawhi was rewarded when he won the defensive player of the year award back-to-back years. A career nearly two steal and one block a game guy, Kawhi is a tough match-up for any star.
- Elite Playoff Performer: One of the best things about Kawhi is his ability to elevate his game come playoff time. At just 28 years old, Kawhi is already a two-time NBA finals MVP. Last year, Kawhi averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in the regular season. In the playoffs, those stats jumped to 30 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. To elevate one’s play in big moments is a superstar quality that Kawhi certainly has.
- Multiple Finals Winner & MVP: Kawhi went to three NBA finals this decade and won two of them. In his second finals appearance, he won finals MVP playing defense on Lebron James. Last season, Kawhi willed the Raptors to the final. He shut down Giannis in the East finals before knocking off the Warriors in six games. Only a handful of players had multiple finals victories and MVP’s this decade and Kawhi was one of them.
Cons of Kawhi Leonard
- Quit On San Antonio: There was some bitterness in San Antonio when Kawhi Leonard essentially quit on the franchise. He may have been a finals MVP for the Spurs, but Kawhi was not very well liked when he was traded. Many felt he could have played for them his final year, but held out on them. Bad look for Kawhi Leonard on that one.
- Missed Lots Of Games: Load management has become one of the talking points in the league. Kawhi has been one of those players that has done it the most. He did suffer his fair share of injuries along the way. But missing double-digit games for “load management” definitely divides people. Many players today understand it, but players like Kobe and MJ would not.
- Doesn’t Distribute Often: Kawhi is great at scoring, rebounding & defending, but is not an elite play maker. Kawhi has never averaged more then four assists his entire career. In fact only two seasons this decade did he average over three assists. Efficient shooter? Yes. Effective distributor of the basketball? Not so much.
Pros of John Wall
- Elite Point Guard Athleticism: Few have the leaping ability that John Wall does at the point guard position. Only two point guards in the decade won the Slam Dunk contest and John Wall was one of them. Wall is a phenomenal dunker and finisher at the rim that few in the game can rival. That athleticism has helped John average nineteen points per game in his career.
- Consistent All-Star Play: The all-star play of John Wall has been a staple in Washington for multiple seasons. Wall first became an all-star in 2014 and would do so for five straight years. While he never started in one of those games, he always impressed against the best. His top year was in 2017 when he made All-NBA Third team.
- Top-Tier Passer: John’s ability to get others involved and productive is something to be admired. Wall unlike Kawhi definitely knows how to make others around him better. Every year but one John Wall averaged over eight assists per game and he averaged nine in the decade. Guys who get tons of assists deserve credit and Wall has been elite at doing it.
Cons of John Wall
- Lacks Playoff Success: Alongside players like Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce, Wall struggles to win playoff series. In the decade, John Wall made a playoff run four times. On each occasion Wall never made it past the second round of the playoffs. His numbers may have elevated, but Wall did not win enough playoff games to impress us this decade
- Injury Proned: This is another player on our bracket that cannot seem to stay healthy. Wall only played a full regular season schedule once in the 2010’s and only crossed seventy games three other occasions. To be considered a decade great, we expect to see top players in more games.
- Shooting Struggles: Struggling to shoot the basketball has been a knock on John Wall since he entered the league. John is a career 43 percent shooter and only 32% shooter from three point land. In an era where shooting is of the utmost importance for a player Wall has dropped the ball.
Do not get me wrong, watching John Wall play basketball is incredibly entertaining. But this match-up is incredibly one sided in this writers eyes. Kawhi is better at every aspect of the game except distributing. He has won more titles, defensive player awards and finals MVP’s. Quite frankly Kawhi Leonard is a killer on the court and John Wall is not. A second round appearance for Kawhi seems obvious to this writer, but will it be to the fans? Only time will tell.
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