Scottie Pippen vs. Kawhi Leonard: Battle of the Two-Way Stars
As “The Last Dance,” documentary aired on April 19, 2020, the internet became a storm of Michael Jordan news, tweets, and other social media posts. As Jordan himself said, you can’t think of Jordan without Scottie Pippen, so Pippen was trending as well. As the internet raged about Pippen’s terrible five-year, $18 million contract, one comparison was seen here and there. Many were comparing Pippen to Kawhi Leonard, sparking other debates left and right. The comparison makes sense as they are both elite wing defenders who have made multiple All-Defensive Teams and won multiple championships. As a result, it makes sense for the next matchup in our “versus,” series to square off Pippen against Leonard.
NBA Versus Series: Scottie Pippen vs. Kawhi Leonard
Scottie Pippen vs. Kawhi Leonard: The Case for Pippen
Scottie Pippen may have been Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman, but he was still one of the top players of his time. His resume and numbers speak for themselves. Pippen is a seven-time All-Star, former steals champion, a six-time champion, seven-time All-NBA Team member, a 10-time All-NBA Defensive Team member, and won the All-Star Game MVP in the 1993-94 season. Especially during Jordan’s hiatus, Pippen showed his worth, proving he could be a true number one option.
In the 1994-95 season, he tallied 21.4 points, 2.9 steals, and 5.2 assists per game. The next year he would come away with 19.4 points, 1.7 steals, and 5.9 assists per game. Finally, we come to Pippen’s career statistics. Pippen would average 16.1 points, 2.0 steals, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game along with an effective field goal percentage of 50.4 percent over his 17-year career. Pippen has the edge over Leonard in terms of titles and All-NBA selections… for now. However, as we all know, a higher number of championships does not necessarily equate to being better than another player.
Scottie Pippen vs. Kawhi Leonard: The Case for Leonard
The Klaw has one distinct disadvantage. He is in his prime as of right now, so we can only look at his career thus far while looking at Pippen’s career as a whole. However, his career still provides a big enough sample size for us to make this comparison. Kawhi may not have been the first option on the 2014 San Antonio Spurs squad, but he won the Finals MVP for a reason. That gives him his first point over Pippen in this debate. Leonard has recently won another title coming away with another Finals MVP, this time as the first option on a Toronto Raptors team, giving him two Finals MVPs to Pippen’s none.
As of right now, Leonard boasts four All-Star appearances, one steals title, three All-NBA selections, five All-Defensive selections, an All-Star Game MVP, and two Defensive Player of the Year awards (something Pippen does not possess). Not to mention, Leonard has impressive career averages right now. He is currently tallying 18.6 points, 1.8 steals, 2.7 assists, 6.4 rebounds per game to go along with an effective field goal percentage of 54.4 percent.
We are going to give Kawhi Leonard the edge in this battle. This means no disrespect to Pippen, who is still arguably a top 25 player of all time for a reason. However, Kawhi is still in the middle of his prime and is most likely going to add to his NBA resume. Plus, we have seen Leonard have significant success as the main star of a team already. On top of this, Leonard’s playoff averages are already on the verge to surpass Pippen’s. Leonard is averaging 19.5 points, 1.7 steals, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game and an effective field goal percentage of 56.6 percent for his career with increases likely to follow.
Not to mention, Leonard went on a tear in his one-year Toronto stint with postseason totals of 30.5 points, 3.9 assists, and 9.1 rebounds per game. For Scottie Pippen, his playoff totals read 17.5 points, 1.9 steals, five assists, 7.6 rebounds per game and an effective field goal percentage of 47.7 percent. Pippen was great during his prime, but if we are choosing someone to build a team around between these two elite wings, the slight edge goes to Kawhi Leonard.
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