Kawhi Leonard sure knows how to make a first impression.
The star forward has done just about everything imaginable so far in his one season with the Toronto Raptors, from launching a thousand memes to hitting mural-worthy series-clinching shots that reverse the fates of a once cursed franchise.
On Wednesday afternoon Leonard added another bullet point to his hefty list of achievements, becoming the first player in Raptors history to be named to an All NBA Defensive Team.
Leonard grabbed the final slot on the Second Team, earning 39 voting points.
“Load management” limited Leonard to 60 games played and occasional bouts of a lessened defensive assignment this season, which explains why a normally elite defender would scrape into the slot by the thinnest of margins.
As mentioned, he’s the first Raptor to receive the honour, but he was nearly joined on the list by a pair of his teammates.
Danny Green, the other Raptor acquired in the trade with the San Antonio Spurs nearly made his way into the list, receiving 66 points, the most of any player to not make one of the teams. An elite “3 and D” wing, Green brought excellent energy in transition and perimeter defence all year long. Voting is split between forward and guard positions, which explains how Green could tally more points than the two 2nd team forwards without receiving the honour.
Similarly, the Raptors’ emerging star and Most Improved Player favourite Pascal Siakam also nearly made the list. The 25-year-old forward receiving the second most votes among forwards that came up short, just behind former Raptor stopper P.J. Tucker. Siakam improved by leaps and bounds in every aspect of his game this season, and a near All-NBA Defensive Team nomination is proof positive that the sky has become the limit for his development.
Guard Kyle Lowry also received a few votes, finishing with three points.
Kawhi has already delivered so many ‘first’s for the franchise this season, is it too much to ask for one more in the form of a first ever NBA Finals berth?
Time will tell.
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