By Jalon Dixon, Columnist
It has only been two weeks since the regular season began and discussions of who is the “Best Player in The World” are already starting to shift as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is quickly changing the minds of basketball fans and analysts alike with his dominating performances.
Sitting atop the Western Conference, the Clippers started the season off hot, winning four of their first five games despite missing all-star forward Paul George due to injury. Some will say this is due to the fact that the Clippers have one of the deepest rosters in the league with two Sixth Man of the Year candidates in guard Lou Williams and forward Montrezl Harrell.
Others may say it is a product of this veteran-heavy team being led by a championship head coach in Doc Rivers, who tends to do well with practically every team he has ever coached. But most will tell you that it is because the Clippers have the new “Best Player in the World” in Leonard. With the way Leonard is playing, you can tell that he hears talks rumbling as he continues to assert himself on the floor and further insert himself into the conversation.
Averaging 29.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, Leonard has been on a tear offensively scoring 30 or more points in three of the five games played so far. Unlike other superstar free agents who signed with new teams over the summer, Leonard is playing as if he does not require an adjustment period. He looks like he has been playing on this Clippers team for some time now and that can most notably be seen through his assist numbers.
Not only is he averaging 6.2 assists on the young season, but so far Leonard has only had one game where he had less than five assists and that was his most recent game against the San Antonio Spurs where he had a dominating 38 points and 12 rebounds in a win over his old team. It is still early in the season, but this new wrinkle in Leonard’s game as a potential facilitator only makes him more of an unstoppable threat on the offensive end.
Beyond just the counting stats, Leonard’s efficiency rating is the most jarring. As the number one scoring option on a team, you expect high volume shooting and big numbers on an inefficient shooting clip. Leonard so far has not fit that mold as he is shooting 39.1 percent from three, 50.5 percent from the floor and 87.1 percent from the free throw line while leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating with a score of 37.09. Although the season is still young, the stat lines that Leonard has already put up shows signs that as the season starts to heat up, he will be ready to step up for the challenge.
Despite sharing the same building as an all-time great player in forward Lebron James and the historic franchise that is the Los Angeles Lakers, Leonard and the Clippers have found a way to dominate the headlines with their tenacious play as a team and the efforts of Leonard who is looking like an early MVP candidate. There is still a long season left ahead, but it is already noticeable to the entire NBA world that Kawhi Leonard is coming for the crown and will not stop until he gets it.