Kawhi Leonard is the undisputed leader, and best player, for the San Antonio Spurs. This is official now that Tim Duncan is gone, and the all-around leadership role is looking for a new host. Leonard will be that host.
Leonard is seasoned and very experienced in the Spurs system, and knows exactly what coach Popovich will expect of the team. Leonard will be the one to organize everything on the court, as
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well as get the team’s heads together.
The reigning back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the MVP award will have lofty expectations in terms of his play too.
Leonard, has improved his shooting drastically and was among the best in the league in three-point percentage is expected to improve in all facets of the game. While Leonard’s numbers may be limited due to the team-oriented style of the Spurs, his impact is great, and should continue to be while seeing an increase in numbers.
He is likely to see more time with the ball, a bit more isolation play, and should be the sole go-to guy in crunch time.
The crunch time aspect is something that was heavily scrutinized last season, mainly in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Thunder, in which many felt Leonard did not do enough for the team in the final quarter of games.
Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) defends a shot by San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Fans should expect to see the ball in his hands in the closing moments of close games, with a positive result. Leonard has proven he can knock down a clutch shot (unless its a free throw) and now we just need to see the ball in his hands even more in the final stages.
Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge is there and will see clutch shots, and Pau Gasol could also see the ball in his hands late in games as well. Despite this, Leonard needs to, and will, be taking the crucial shots in games. In order to complete the evolution to the superstar that he is budding into, Leonard must be taking the big shots.
This is something that comes with being the main man. In the same way that David Robinson once handed the torch to Duncan, the torch is now being passed to Leonard for the new era.
Leonard saw a career high in minutes and field goals attempted per game last season. Expect for both statistics to further increase this season. While of course the Spurs and Leonard will play team-oriented basketball, the game will evolve around Leonard just as it did for Duncan in the early 2000s.
In terms of awards, it would not be surprising at all to see Leonard do a three-peat for Defensive Player of the Year, as he is unquestionably the best perimeter defender in the NBA. Expect Leonard to be a contender for the MVP award, and finish top five in voting once again.
With this increased role for the team, it is also reasonable to expect Leonard to show more emotion and be more vocal. It is likely we’ll see him argue calls with the referees more often and have little pep talks with teammates on the court at times.
If the role that is being described sounds familiar at all, that’s because it is. Leonard will have to pick up where Duncan left off. Yes, these are big expectations and enormous shoes to fill.
Though, if anyone will do it, its the quiet, humble, fundamental superstar that is Leonard. The city of San Antonio is relying on Leonard to fill these shoes, and like time and time before- expect him to rise to the occasion.