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Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA

The Kawhi Leonard-Giannis Antetokounmpo rivalry could’ve dominated the East for a decade

Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both arguably top five players in the NBA. After NBA fans were treated to a heated six-game series between the one-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and the two seed Toronto Raptors, it felt like the NBA’s next great rivalry could be upon us.

Unfortunately, an extended look into the could-be rivalry just wasn’t in the cards, as Leonard would leave Toronto for Los Angeles in the offseason. Still, NBA fans have to wonder: what would have the Kawhi Leonard-Giannis Antetokounmpo rivalry looked like?

Hopefully we will get to see the two superstars matchup for the first time this season on December 6 as the top-seeded Bucks host the Clippers. But lets take a look at how the two players fared against each other last year.

Despite losing to them in the Eastern Conference Finals, Antetokounmpo’s Bucks went 3-1 against Leonard in the regular season. The two would only play against each other in three of those four games but when they did, the stars battled it out.

In their January 5 matchup, the Greek Freak would go off for 43 points and 18 rebounds. However, not to be outdone, Leonard would pour in 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists while being hi normal disruptive self on defense grabbing five steals.

When the met in ECF later that season, Leonard and Antetokounmpo once again battled it out. In a big game two win, Antetokounpo would record 30 points, grab 17 rebounds and dish five assists to push Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-0.

The very next game, Leonard would put up 36, nine and five while shooting a near-perfect 12-13 from the charity stripe. The Raptors would go on to win four straight after falling to 0-2 in the series. In the six games, Leonard would score less than 27 points just once and would average 29.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals while playing over 40 minutes per game.

Not to say that Antetokounmpo wasn’t just as impressive, the Bucks star averaged 22.7 points, 13.5 rebounds , 5.5 assists and 2.7 blocks for the series and proved why he was named 2019 NBA MVP.

Luckily for the other teams in the Eastern Conference, they no longer have to worry about “the Klaw” unless the make the NBA finals. But not only that, the East could have used a high-profile rivalry such as the Raptors and Bucks.

Unfortunately, Leonard continued the trend of stars leaving the East while the Western Conference continues to get stronger. We will hopefully get to see the two stars reignite the rivalry on December 6 but it will happen a lot less frequently than if Leonard would have stayed in Toronto.

At the same time, Milwaukee is currently sitting at 18-3 on the season as the East’s top team while the Clippers, at 16-6 aren’t far behind. We will undoubtedly see two of the best teams in the league face off on Friday and for rivalry’s sake, let’s  hope for a potential Clippers-Bucks finals in the future.