Apr 5, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forwardKawhi Leonard
(2) is defended by Golden State Warriors point guardStephen Curry
(30) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Kawhi Leonard is only 24-years old, but he is quickly becoming one of the elite players in the league. Leonard has become the face of the franchise on the most dominant franchise in the last 15 years, the San Antonio Spurs. Spurs fans have been accustomed to see the trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili setting the table, things have changed for good reason.
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Instead Leonard and newly acquired four-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge will be called upon to make the Spurs go. Leonard is the most complete player on the Spurs at this stage, but Aldridge is without question their best scorer. Both players are team guys and they will help out the aging trio significantly. One can’t forget about the valuable role players in Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, David West, and Danny Green.
Rewinding back to the 2011 NBA Draft when the Spurs traded George Hill for the 15th pick, it’s hard to imagine that people believed Leonard will be this special. At San Diego State, Leonard was a terrific defensive player, but he was raw on offense. Leonard worked all offseason to improve his shooting and years later he is a reliable shooter (37% career three-point shooter).
Leonard is at his best in big moments. In the 2014 NBA Finals, Leonard did the improbable as he matched up with the best player in the world, LeBron James. Leonard averaged 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds, winning the NBA Finals MVP. Who would’ve imagined Leonard being Finals MVP on a team that has Duncan and Parker?
Last season, Leonard took strides on offensive as he averaged 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds. Leonard looked comfortable in isolation situations and in the post. His mid-range game was much smoother and his vision (2.5 apg) improved significantly. Leonard also lead the league in steals (2.3 spg).
In the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, he averaged 20.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. Unfortunately the Spurs fell in a terrific seven game series.
This season, Leonard will be called up on to do even more with Duncan and Ginobili getting older. Leonard has a terrific shot of making his first NBA All-Star game this season. He is also looking to help the Spurs win their sixth NBA title. Chances are they will be in the running for it.