Apr 28, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Repeating as champs is really the only goal left unaccomplished by the San Antonio Spurs. If they are to do so, it will require heavier doses of Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard young and experienced enough to handle heavy NBA minutes
Part of the big problem facing the Spurs is the fact they are coming off their second-straight playoff run into the NBA Finals. For any team that begins to take a toll. For one that features a lot of older veterans, it can be potentially destructive. That is where Leonard comes in. Following his Finals MVP performance, it is clear the 23-year old forward is more than capable of handling full-time starter duties. In three seasons he is averaging under 30 minutes played per game. Part of that is strategy but also was due to his relative inexperience. That is no longer an issue. Leonard has a blossoming game that is ready to reach the next level, which only requires more time on the floor.
Gregg Popovich has to keep Tim Duncan and vets fresh as possible
The key of course is Gregg Popovich. The Spurs head coach is notorious for resting his players during the season and spreading out minutes as much as possible. It’s impossible to argue with the philosophy given the results, but more than ever in 2014-2015 he will need to find ways to rest veterans like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili as much as possible. That means sending those minutes elsewhere to the younger bodies, with Leonard right at the top.
San Antonio doesn’t need absurd Kobe Bryant-type floor time from him in order to reach the summit again, but if they want one more round out of their core, then shifting the heavy load to Leonard’s young legs is a big key.