Kawhi Leonard has a great deal to prove. The Los Angeles Clippers superstar came over from Toronto after winning an NBA championship in 2019 with the intention of bringing another title to a Clippers franchise that had yet to win one.
Flash forward two years and nearly two postseasons later, and things aren’t looking so good. The Clippers had an ugly early exit in the playoffs last year, going up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets before eventually losing the series in seven games. Now, down 0-2 to a white-hot Dallas Mavericks team led by the insanely talented Luka Doncic, Kawhi may have more to prove than ever — and some are calling him out in a big way for not proving it already.
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Is Doncic Making Leonard Look Worse?
Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated went all in on Leonard after the Clips dropped two straight in the series against the Mavs. Noting how easy things looked for Doncic by comparison, Lundberg pointed out that the contrast between what Kawhi has been bringing versus what Luka has been bringing — and it’s quite stark.
“His lack of playmaking for others has become apparent in his current situation, especially when contrasted to what Doncic is doing on the other side. And for someone who has also been known as a lockdown defender, it’s not a good look that Luka is getting any look he wants in this series,” Lundberg wrote about Leonard.
Leonard has certainly been contributing so far this postseason — he had 26 points in Game 1, and 41 points in L.A.’s Game 2 loss against Dallas — but Lundberg has a point about the way Doncic opens things up for his teammates. Leonard’s role with the Clips is different than Doncic’s is with the Mavs, but so far, through two games, the comparison between the two superstars lands firmly in Doncic’s favor. Doncic has been electrifying and has done just about everything. Leonard has put points in the board, but hasn’t done much to elevate his squad.
Kawhi’s Reputation Has ‘Taken Hit’ Since Joining Clippers
Lundberg also referenced Kawhi’s time in Toronto and San Antonio, contrasting how easy things looked for him just a few short seasons ago:
Kawhi was clearly the best player on the Raptors and on that entire playoff run, but Kyle Lowry was their heartbeat. When he was winning with the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard was able to grow under a Hall of Fame infrastructure. Now that he’s in LA, his reputation of being the ultimate winner is taking a bit of a hit given his team has become a punchline. … That doesn’t take away from what Leonard has accomplished in his career, but his foray into building his own team with the other team in his hometown is certainly looking like a failure.
Leonard will have a say in what happens next, as he can exercise his player option this summer…or not. A great deal could depend on what happens over the next few weeks, but if the Clippers don’t find a way to turn things around soon, it won’t be a shock to see Leonard head elsewhere. There are certainly quite a few fan bases out there hoping he does.