Before the NBA Finals started, odds for the 2014 NBA Finals MVP were released. At the top of the list were each team’s big three, with two-time Finals MVP LeBron James leading the way with the strongest odds.
Way down at the bottom of the list with 18-1 odds was 22-year old Los Angeles native Kawhi Leonard. Surely, with future Hall of Famers like James and Tim Duncan playing in a series alongside other stars like Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh and Manu Ginobili, there would be no way for Leonard to bring home the Bill Russell Award, right?
Had someone put a $10 bet on Leonard, they would have won $180, because the former San Diego State guard was named Finals MVP after the Spurs dismantled the Heat in five games.
Over the last three Spurs wins, Leonard was incredible on both ends of the floor. He averaged 23.7 points, 9.3 rebounds while shooting 68.5 percent from the field and containing James defensively. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Leonard caused James to take fewer shots, have fewer drives and get fewer touches throughout the series.
The bigger story behind Leonard’s MVP performance is how the Spurs’ front office has been able to build around the team’s aging core with quality, young players and how head coach Gregg Popovich has been able to coach those players up. It’s fair to think that the Spurs will continue to perform well even with Duncan, Ginobili and Parker getting older because of guys like Leonard emerging into bigger roles.