Kawhi Leonard Is Not A Top 10 Player Yet

By George Middleton

Kawhi Leonard was ranked the 10th best player in the NBA according to SI.com’s top 100 NBA Players of 2016. Leonard is turning into an elite two-way player. The 24-year old wing averaged 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.3 steals. He also won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

If Leonard is an improving scorer and already a great defender, how is he not a top-10 player?

Leonard is a solid scorer that is not ready to take over games, just yet.

Mar 12, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket as Cleveland Cavaliers forward

LeBron James

(R) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Offense is equally important as defense and Leonard hasn’t mastered that just yet. The postseason was a perfect example of how Leonard can use improvement as a scorer. In the first five games Leonard scored at least 18 points in each game. In the biggest games of the series (6&7), he scored a combined 25 points.

Leonard is an improving passer and ball-handler, but he still has ways to go. This season he averaged a career high 2.5 assists. He appears much more comfortable in the post and in isolation situations. Unlike his first three seasons of his career, it appeared that Leonard had plays lined up for him.

Defensively, Leonard is second to none. He is not only a terrific defender at small forward, but he can defend shooting guards and some point guards.

One can make the case that DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and LaMarcus Aldridge should be ranked ahead of Leonard. The three players ranked in the top-20 but slightly below Leonard.

Cousins takes over games for Sacramento at will. He averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists last year.

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Wall led the Washington Wizards to 46 wins. He averaged 17.6 points, 10 assists, and 4.6 rebounds.

Aldridge isn’t the defender Leonard is, but he is the superior scorer. Aldridge is coming off consecutive seasons of at least 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Leonard is without question a top-20 player in the league, possibly top-15. Sports Illustrated was a bit off, but it’s understandable considering Leonard’s potential and defensive ability.

Look for Leonard to make his first NBA All-Star Game this season.

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