With the season in full swing, and San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard is looking like an NBA MVP candidate right from the start.
Not only is he still a dominant defender, Leonard has been showing he can score the basket with the best of them with a scoring average of 28.4 points – his best in his young career.
The funny thing is that Kawhi isn’t upping his scoring output with dunks, layups, or even jump shots. He’s getting it done at the free throw line.
Leonard is getting to the charity line more than he did a season ago, and is capitalizing.
Oct 27, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. The Spurs won the game 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard reportedly spent his offseason studying video to try and figure out how he can get to the free throw line more often, and from the opening tip of the 2016–2017 season, it appears the work has paid off. Leonard got to the line 15 times in the Spurs’ opening night demolition of the Golden State Warriors through a series of moves teammate Manu Ginóbili described as “Harden-like” a nod to the Houston Rockets’ conniving guard.
The numbers show it has been paying off for the Spurs’ leader.
Leonard’s free throw percentage has improved dramatically from a 77.2 percent he had during the 2011-12 season. This season, he is shooting a whopping 95.6 percent from the free throw line.
Through five games this season, Kawhi has already been to the line 45 times connecting on 43 (95 percent).
Leonard is getting a lot more attention these days and with his ability to get to the lane, defenses quickly collapse and the outcome more than likely is a foul.
He is proving to teams that once he gets to the line, he is pretty much automatic. The issue for opposing teams now is how will they guard him?
Leonard can shoot the three point shot, hit jumpers, finish at the rim and now gets it done at the free throw line.
He has proven down the stretch, he can also take the game over. So far this season, Leonard has scored 30+ points in 3 of 5 games.
On opening night against the Golden State Warriors, Kawhi was a perfect 15 for 15 from the charity stripe. Against the Miami Heat on Sunday, he went 10 for 12 which marked the lone game this season he has not been perfect.
He is on another level and continues to grow and get stronger. One word can only describe Leonard’s play thus far.