MVP Race: For the first time this NBA season, James Harden is No. 1

MVP Race: For the first time this NBA season, James Harden is No. 1

Awards

MVP Race: For the first time this NBA season, James Harden is No. 1

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9. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

STATS: 27.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.6 spg, 49.7 FG%, 36.1 3P%

Leonard had a monster performance in Tuesday’s win over the Utah Jazz, finishing with career-high 45 points on 16-22 (72.7 percent) shooting from the field.

These types of dominant outings are why the Toronto Raptors were willing to trade for Leonard as a rental this past offseason. While it was a risk, they hoped that they’d win a lot of games, go on a deep playoff run and ultimately persuade him to stay long-term. That’s obviously still possible, but it’s worth noting that Marc Stein of the New York Times recently predicted that Leonard will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers in July.

In his terrific weekly newsletter, Stein predicted that Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant will re-sign with their current teams. However, Stein believes Leonard is likely leaving Toronto.

“The Raptors, however, know that they almost certainly have to win it all to convince Leonard to spurn a return to his native Southern California,” Stein writes. “It turns out that merely winning the LeBron-less East will be tougher than the Raptors ever imagined because of Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston and pesky Indiana.

“The Clippers’ hopes of signing Kawhi away from the Raptors, as a result, feel rather real as the calendar flips. One likewise presumes that a full Toronto teardown, headlined by a Kyle Lowry trade, would soon follow if Kawhi exits.”

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