Wow Kawhi Leonard, you just won the NBA Finals MVP! What are you going to do next? If he was smart, he would log on to Pippen Ain’t Easy your best choice for all things basketball. But seriously folks, Kawhi Leonard did grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. He looks good too. He took the term, “putting someone on a poster” to another level flying over Chris “Birdman” Anderson for a monster dunk. Now that the San Antonio Spurs effectively ended the Miami Heat championship run with a smack and a thud. Now the side stories and comparisons will start. One that definitely ended was the comparisons of Michael Jordan with LeBron James. I’m not going to start that rant again. For that one log on to Pippen Ain’t Easy, the best choice for Chicago Bulls news, previews and reviews.
I did some internet surfing to see the “LeBron bashing” that was going on after the white washing of the Miami Heat in five games. I saw an article on Hoops Habit on the FanSided website that intrigued me a little bit. It was the comparison of Kawhi Leonard to Scottie Pippen.
The league MVP Kevin Durant was caught with loose lips on twitter saying that Kawhi Leonard is a product of the San Antonio Spurs system. Was it sour grapes? Maybe, maybe not, but who cares. Kawhi Leonard is the name on everyone’s lips these days and Kevin Durant is hopefully in a weight room trying to bulk up for next year. Nevertheless what Kevin Durant stated coupled with the article found on Hoops Habit did strike a chord with me.
Can Kawhi Leonard become the next Scottie Pippen?
Sorry, San Antonio fans and my colleagues at Air Alamo, I love you guys but no.
I will say this. Kawhi Leonard is much farther along in his career AT THIS POINT than Scottie was in his career.
I mean the evidence is already there for the world to see. Leonard is already a NBA champion, with a Finals MVP to boot. He shot an astronomical 61.8% from the field in the series. He limited LeBron James to being a one trick pony making him just a scorer and even made that difficult. So much that now, if not for a Ray Allen three pointer in the corner in Game six of last year’s Finals, Kawhi Leonard would be a back to back champion.
Scottie Pippen was not as accomplished as Kawhi Leonard was in his first three years in the NBA. Sure the Bulls made the playoffs, but he always ran into the bullies of the Eastern Conference at the time, the Detroit Pistons.
Scottie Pippen indirectly got the Jordan Rules started. The Pistons knew that Michael Jordan was going to get his 40 points no problem. The Pistons also knew that they could get in Scottie’s head. So they made Jordan work very hard for his points and shut everyone else out, particularly Scottie. I think Bulls fans remember the infamous migraine game in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals back in 1989. The Bad Boys basically did what the Spurs did to LeBron James. When Scottie grew up and became the strong consistent second option to Jordan, the dynasty was born.
The comparison of these two players physically is no contest. Kawhi Leonard is an out-and-out stud. At 22 years of age, he has room to get even stronger. Folks, that’s scary. Leonard is 6’7 225 pounds of rock solid muscle. He’s listed as a small forward but watching this guy outplay LeBron James in the Finals means he can guard multiple positions.
Describing Scottie Pippen’s body in his first three years in the league was a work in progress. He was a little frail to say the least. I remember watching video of Charles Oakley grabbing Pippen by the collar and treating him like 98 pound weakling horsing around in the locker room in Scottie’s rookie year. Over his career and Breakfast Club weight room meetings with Michael Jordan, Scottie became very strong and muscular at the end of his career. He needed that strength to guard Magic Johnson in the 1990-91 Finals that turned the series around. Then Scottie parlayed that into being one of the greatest defensive small forwards of all time.
From this moment on the comparisons can stop. As good as Kawhi Leonard was in the Finals, Scottie Pippen would run circles around him. Here’s why…
Scottie Pippen was higher in the pecking order.
Kwahi Leonard is the story of the Finals, but let’s be clear here. The San Antonio Spurs have three different options to run their offense through, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. The Spurs do not call plays for Leonard. Let’s be real here, and understand I am not even trying to cosign what Kevin Durant said in his tweets comparing him to Paul George. But it will be interesting to see what happens next year when his name moves up on the chalk board when game plans are discussed. The Spurs “Big Three” command a lot of attention which allows Leonard to go one on one. How will he handle being double teamed?
Scottie Pippen always was one of the focal points in the Bulls offense. Come to think of it, he actually initiated the offense. The Bulls counted heavily on Pippen to execute the triangle offense and provide scoring to support Jordan. Pippen was the Jack of All Trades guy averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.4 steals and a block during the first championship run. Now understand that he was listed as a small forward as well. Let’s ignore the scoring for a second, take a look at this…
Pippen’s averages of seven rebounds is comparable with LeBron James’ rebounds averages during his career.
Averaging six assists is comparable with any competent point guard in the NBA, then or now.
How long do you have to think until you can come up with a small forward that averages a block a game?
Here’s where we can put the argument to bed. Let’s talk about those 18 months that Michael Jordan was chasing fly balls and a baseball dream.
In 1994 when Scottie Pippen was the number one option, he scored a career high 22 points, grabbed 8.7 rebounds, dished out 5.6 assists and had 2.9 steals. One phantom foul call on Pippen against Hubert Davis in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and we’re talking possibly four championships in a row here.
How about the next year? Well he was even better. He became only the second player in NBA history (Dave Cowens being the first) to lead his team in scoring (21.4), rebounding (8.1), assists (5.2), blocks (1.1) and steals (2.9, a career high).
You see Scottie Pippen AVERAGED over 20 points during this period. Kawhi Leonard only hit 20 points three times in a row in the Finals…for the first time.
Finally, Scottie Pippen has six rings and no losses in the NBA Finals. I’m not going to go at Kawhi Leonard like LeBron James but he has a Finals loss.
Let’s just watch Kawhi Leonard develop and grow as a player and stop the comparisons with one of the 50 greatest players shall we?