Sage veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been the heart of San Antonio’s championship dynasty, but it was young gun Kawhi Leonard who helped the Spurs push through for the franchise’s fifth NBA title. The third-year player from San Diego State averaged 17.8 points per game on 61 percent shooting from the field in the title series.
It’s quite the feel-good story. At 22, Leonard is the youngest Finals MVP since Duncan in 1999. He’s also just the sixth Finals MVP who didn’t make the All-Star Game the year he won the award. Chauncey Billups was the last player to earn that distinction in 2004. And it was a stirring bounce-back from last year’s Finals, when Leonard’s missed free throw in the waning moments of Game 6 helped set up Ray Allen’s game-tying three that sent the game into overtime. The Heat won that game and the next to seemingly put a fork in San Antonio’s last great chance at a title.
So who was picked ahead of Leonard in the 2011 NBA Draft? We’re glad you asked, though most of the guys on this list probably wish you wouldn’t have.