So much so that Leonard was named the NBA defensive player of the year on Thursday.
The voting was extremely close. Leonard edged Golden State forward Draymond Green in total points, 333-317, even though Green had more first-place votes, 45-37, from the 129 sportswriters and broadcasters who decide on the award.
Leonard led the league in steals per game with 2.3, becoming just the sixth forward to do so since the NBA starting keeping track of the stat 42 years ago, to go with 7.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks.
He helped the Spurs limit opponents to 99.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, the third best in the league this season. Plus, San Antonio was 7-8 during his extended absence in December and January, before going on a 10-3 run upon his return.
Green made a strong case for himself as well, averaging 1.6 steals, 1.3 blocks and 8.2 rebounds for the Warriors, who won a league-best 67 games.