ESPN has officially embarked on their quest to rank the top 500 NBA players for the upcoming season. As each Spur is listed, I will provide a synopsis and a brief take on why they deserve (or don’t) this ranking.
Kawhi Leonard parlayed a starting roster spot last season into a top 100 ranking in ESPN’s NBA Rank. He finished 95th, which denotes him as a capable top three option on an average team. Coming into his rookie season, Leonard ranked 296th.
Leonard quickly developed into a versatile threat away from the ball. His averages aren’t gaudy but, when you extrapolate them over 36 minutes, he averaged 11.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 49.3% shooting. That equates to an above-average 16.6 PER, a mark only bested by four rookies last season (Gustavo Ayon, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, Kenneth Faried).
He also finished through contact remarkably well, as he converted on 68.8% of his attempts at the rim. Leonard shot 30% on non corner 3-pointers which is the only blemish on his rookie resume. Should he improve on these attempts, it isn’t inconceivable for him to shoot greater than 40% from behind the arc over an entire season.
My take. It is pretty easy to be optimistic when Leonard, 21, has already shown flashes of brilliance. A gradual ascent to the top 50 isn’t out of the question at this point.
Other Spurs already ranked: Tiago Splitter (149) | Stephen Jackson (151) | DeJuan Blair (155) | Danny Green (160) | Boris Diaw (162) | Gary Neal (171) | Matt Bonner (198) | Patty Mills (309) | James Anderson (424) | Cory Joseph (458) | Derrick Byars (488)