Alright right off the bat I am going to throw my own wrinkle into this. I am declaring that you have to choose one SA for Kawhi since we only get one season to compare to TOR/LAC. For me, that's 2016-17 Kawhi. Maybe you disagree because it is not any of his DPOY or Finals MVP seasons, but for me that was the one season he really started to elevate into one of the best all around players in the league. For me, it was even more impressive than his 2015-16 season when he won DPOY and was 2nd in MVP voting. As always, before we make an official decision we first have to look at each season individually
2016-17 Kawhi Leonard
Stats: 25.5 points / 5.8 rebounds / 3.5 assists / 1.8 steals / 121 Ortg / 102 Drtg / 4.7 defensive win shares / 8.9 offensive win shares
This was essentially the last time the Spurs and their fans got to see Kawhi unless you could his 9 games the following season. This was truly the first year we saw Kawhi leap into that elite two way monster with what was in my opinion his best offensive season. His 17 FGA were the most he'd ever taken in a season and he shot 48.5%, his 2.0 3PM were also a career high as was his 25.5 points per game. In term of his Ortg, his 121 number was tied for the highest of his career.
Once the Spurs got to the postseason, Kawhi bumped that up to 27.7/7.8/4.6 on 52/45% shooting. He obviously had postseason success prior to that season, but 2017 is when we saw him become an offensive monster in the playoffs, especially from deep.
2018-19 Kawhi Leonard
Stats: 26.6 points / 7.3 rebounds / 3.3 assists / 1.8 steals / 119 Ortg / 105 Drtg / 3.4 defensive win shares / 6.1 offensive win shares
It's hard to argue against Toronto Kawhi when you factor in how legit he was during the regular season in his 60 games, and then what he did to carry the Raptors to their first ever title. While his advanced metrics may have dipped slightly, he shot 49.6/37% with 1.9 3PM while seeing his FGA jump to a new career high of 18.8. If you thought his playoff jump in 2017 was nice, well what he did last year was a completely different level. His production went up to 30.5/9.1/3.9 on 49/37% splits with 2.3 3PM a night.
This was the year we saw Kawhi cement himself as a top 5 player in the league and that might even be low. He wasn't even healthy and you couldn't stop him. That series against the Bucks completely changed the second Kawhi started guarding Giannis. He single handedly buried the Sixers, it was one of the greatest playoff runs in recent memory if not NBA history.
2019-20 Kawhi Leonard
Stats: 26.9 points / 7.3 rebounds / 5.0 assists / 1.8 steals / 116 Ortg / 104 Drtg / 3.0 defensive win shares / 4.6 offensive win shares
If you had to be a stickler I suppose you could say this has been the "worst" version of Kawhi, even if that version is still really fucking good. It's also a little incomplete given we haven't seen this year's Playoff Kawhi, and if he once again puts up a TOR performance and brings a title to LAC, given who they are going to have to get through this could very well be the best version.
The one difference we see even now though is how much better of a playmaker Kawhi has become. The rest we've sort of seen before. The efficient scoring, the good defense, but the playmaking is a new wrinkle in his arsenal that makes him even tougher. We saw it a little bit with TOR, but it's a new level this year. The way he is now able to read defenses makes a huge difference in what the Clippers do offensively.
So what's my final verdict? I think 2017 Kawhi is the leader in the clubhouse for me right this second. Remember, had Zaza fucking Pachulia not pulled that shady move and injured him (remember when Warriors fans defended that and said it wasn't dirty?!) that team probably goes on to win the title. They were whipping that Warriors ass in that game before he went out. If the Clippers win the whole thing this year and he has another similar run, I think 2020 Kawhi would take over for me because of his improved playmaking. It seems weird to have his TOR title year third, but you also have to remember the circumstances around that title. If GS is at full strength you could argue that title never happens. Maybe that shouldn't matter but for me it's factored in. I look at it like this
Spurs Kawhi - best defensive years
Toronto Kawhi - elevation into true best player in the league conversation
Clippers Kawhi - best all around version of Kawhi that has the potential to also win a ring which would make it the best version.
But there is still that unknown as of now. That's why 2017 Kawhi is my choice. Do you agree? If not, list your version and why!