Kawhi Leonard has been in the NBA for 7 seasons and at the age of 27 years old he is already the proud owner of 2 NBA Finals MVP Awards and is a two-time NBA Champion -once in the West with San Antonio Spurs and once in the East with the Toronto Raptors
As of Friday, July 5th, 2019 around 11 PM ET, Kawhi Leonard announced that for the foreseeable future he will try to win a third NBA title as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. In what has been an outstanding career so far, Leonard has had some help along the way. Going forward, it will be the basketball acumen of Paul George that Leonard will rely on to help put the Clippers in Championship contention.
However, along the way, Leonard has had a few greats to assist his journey from a basketball player to a basketball legend. Here are the five best teammates Kawhi Leonard has played with so far
#5 Pascal Siakam
The Toronto Raptors won their first-ever NBA title in 2019 in large parts thanks to Kawhi Leonard. Each series win from Orlando to Golden State can be traced to things Kawhi did exceptionally well like scoring and defending. Team sports do require two things for a team to be successful. Teamwork and defense. Well, the Raptors had both intangibles on display this past postseason.
Pascal Siakam among a number of other Raptors was right there giving his all beside Kawhi Leonard. A breakout third NBA season that saw Siakam average 16.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg. He transitioned from a bench player to a starting power forward for the Raptors which culminated in an NBA Finals victory and Siakam taking home the Most Improved Player award.
Great things are expected going forward for Siakam who was drafted 27th by the Raptors in 2016. His appearance on this list is cemented by the 32 points he scored in Game 1 of the NBA Finals 2019 against the Golden State Warriors.
#4 LaMarcus Aldridge
Kawhi Leonard spent the first 6 years of his career toiling for the San Antonio Spurs and disaster struck him and the franchise in the spring of 2017 during the Western Conference Finals. A bad landing thanks to the play of one Zaza Pachulia, then a Golden State Warrior, cost the Spurs a 20 plus point lead in the game, potentially the series and it definitely cost the Spurs the services of Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard would only play in nine more games during a drama-filled 2017/18 season for the Spurs due to bickering about just how injured he was. But that 2017 WCF game was a blow to Aldridge’s first real shot at an NBA title as the Spurs, who still had Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the roster were at this stage led by Aldridge and Leonard.
Aldridge who for his career averages 19.6 ppg and 8.4 rpg found the defensive pressure in that series against Golden State hard to handle and had a 4/11 shooting night in the finale of the Warriors' 4-game sweep of the Spurs.
That disaster aside, Aldridge is a power forward/center who has been dominant in the NBA for 13 seasons and is a 7-time All-Star. If Leonard did not get hurt in the opening game of the 2017 WCF, Aldridge and Leonard would and could have provided a great 1-2 scoring punch against the Warriors.
#3 Tony Parker
Tony Parker had been the starting point guard in San Antonio from 2001 till the end of the 2018 season. Along the way, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Parker amassed 4 NBA Titles together. In 2014, their last title experience together was made possible by the MVP play of Kawhi Leonard defending against LeBron James.
However, Parker averaged 17.4 ppg and 4.8 apg in that 2014 playoff run and as always was instrumental in running the Spurs offense. Leonard benefited from the brilliance of Tony Parker as The Klaw shot over 51% from the field in the 2014 playoffs on just over 10 field goal attempts per game.
As for Parker, who wound up signing to play this past season in Charlotte, he is a 6-time NBA All-Star, the Finals MVP in 2007 and a 4-time NBA Champion who has played 18 outstanding seasons in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs.
#2 Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili, like Parker, is also a 4-time NBA Champion. While Parker was a late first-round pick at 28th overall in 2001, Ginobili’s path to the NBA should have been harder. If it was, Ginobili proved he was too good to let a number like draft order/selection hold his basketball ability back. He was selected 57th overall in the 2nd round in 1999.
By 2003, Ginobili was a rookie in the NBA and a member of the same Spurs roster that would win 4 NBA titles from 2003-2014. He played every role the Spurs franchise and head coach Gregg Popovich asked of him.
Along with being a 4-time champion, Ginobili is also a 6th Man of the Year award winner in 2008 and a 2-time All-Star. His #20 was retired recently by the Spurs. Just like Parker, Ginobili teamed with Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard to win the 2014 NBA Championship against the Miami Heat led by LeBron James.
#1 Tim Duncan
Known as the “Big Fundamental”, Tim Duncan was not a flashy power forward but one who simply had a great work ethic was knowledgeable about his role on the court and executed every play to perfection. Drafted first overall by the Spurs in 1997, thanks to an injury that sidelined David Robinson, it only took two seasons for the “Admiral” and the “Big Fundamental” to combine to lead San Antonio to a title in 1999.
Duncan is the only teammate of Kawhi Leonard to have won 5 NBA titles. Duncan was also a member of the 2014 Spurs, like Leonard, that won the NBA title. Duncan appears first on this list because not only did he play 19 seasons all for the Spurs but because he was also a 3-time NBA Finals MVP, the NBA’s MVP twice, a 15-time All-Star and he averaged a career double-double with 19 ppg and 10.8 rpg.
It is the knowledge and experience, in particular of Kawhi Leonard's San Antonio teammates, a combined 13 NBA Titles and 4 Finals MVPs that a non-lottery pick like Kawhi Leonard learned the pro game of basketball around.
When one assesses Kawhi Leonard, his greatest former teammates can be seen in how he carries himself - with professionalism, dedication to his craft, a desire to win and focus on the task at hand. The LA Clippers and the great Paul George now have all of this championship pedigree to draw upon for the start of the 2019/20 season.