The San Antonio Spurs are coming off of an historic 2015-16 NBA regular season walking away with 67-wins, and Kawhi Leonard played a huge role.
The Spurs did have the ‘Big 3′ (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan) stillon the court but it would have to be the play and the continuing rise to stardom of Kawhi Leonard that should get the most credit for the Spurs’ continued success.
Oct 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson shouts as San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) controls the ball at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
I am not knocking the fact that the ‘Big 3’ did not exist but Leonard over his years in the league has improved dramatically and the scary thing, he is continuing to improve in every asset of his game.
Leonard’s first year in the league was a filler for him if you will. Transitioning from the college game to the pro game can make one feel as if it is going at him 100 miles an hour. Leonard that season appeared in 64 games while getting to start 39 of those.
He averaged 7.9 points per game while attempting just six shots. What Leonard did so well during his rookie season was show everyone that he in fact relies on being the defensive stopper that the Spurs had always had in their history.
Everyone knew what happened after his rookie season. Leonard quickly rose to the top of the ranks. He helped the the Spurs to their fifth title and all of which he was named the Finals Most Valuable Player, at just 22 years of age.
Fast track to 2015-16 season. Over the last few years, Leonard has quickly turned into an all-around player for San Antonio. Not only is he their go-to on the defensive side of the ball, he is also the first option in their offense. From his rookie season, Leonard has increased his scoring average from 7.9 to 21.2.
Leonard’s style of play compliments the Spurs in a good way. He has developed his game now to where you have to contest his shots, but if you close out on him, he has the length and the speed to get past a defender and finish at the rim.
As you can see in the video above, Leonard ranks among the top players in the league when it comes to offensive efficiency. He comes in just behind Stephen Curry and J.J. Reddick, according to Synergy Sports.
Looking deeper into his offensive skill set, Leonard ranked third behind Curry and James Harden in spot ups over 175 possessions.
Kawhi has become an assassin on the offensive end, countering what he can already do on the defensive side.
What Leonard has done so well is getting into the lane and with his height, 6-foot-7, equipped with large hands, it does not take much effort for Leonard to rise above an opponent and finish at the rim.
Since his rookie year, you can see the work and the outcome that Leonard has been putting in during the offseason.
He is proving that hard work, definitely pays off.