NBA playoffs: Shaq, Charles Barkley say Kawhi Leonard second-best NBA player behind LeBron

Shaq and Chuck are very impressed with the Spurs star wing, who's a stealth NBA MVP candidate.

The Spurs' Kawhi Leonard had a very impressive first half Monday, scoring 18 points against the Grizzlies in Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series.

It was so impressive, it got the TNT studio crew to unleash some superlatives.

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"A lot of people don't say it but I'm going to say it right now," Shaquille O'Neal said. "Kawhi Leonard is definitely a superstar. [He's the] second-best player in the league."

Charles Barkley concurred with the Big Aristotle, saying Leonard is No. 2 behind only LeBron James.

"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Barkley responded. "LeBron's the best player in the world, but that kid right there, he does it all. Offense, defense, he does it all."

Even ignoring the most lukewarm part of the exchange — when Shaq went out on a limb and said Leonard was "definitely a superstar" — this is a justifiable opinion.

Leonard is far and away the best player on the team with the second-best record in the league. He already has an impressive postseason resume. He also has back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards.

In other words, while a lot of NBA-watchers will go with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook or James Harden as next after LeBron, it's tough to argue against Leonard, who's a stealth NBA MVP candidate this year.

Perhaps the worst part of the segment came when Ernie Johnson attempted an awful pun, calling Leonard the "Kawhi-etest" superstar in the league.

UPDATE: Leonard finished with 37 points (on 9-of-14 shooting), 11 rebounds and two assists in the Spurs' 96-82 win. He also delivered an emphatic message to the Grizzlies in the final seconds.


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