San Antonio Spurs: Will Kawhi Leonard’s assist total rise in 2017-18?
By Tyler Clerkin
Is San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in for a spike in distribution?
With every new season, it seems San Antonio Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard increases his skillset. Because there are some new faces, expect Leonard to share the ball more in the 2017-18 season.
Leonard was able to dish out 3.5 assists per game last year. Although this was a career high for him, if the Spurs want any chance of winning a title, this number needs to improve.
Since last season’s team lacked in scorers to help Leonard, this season sings a different song. The Spurs were able to grab small forward Rudy Gay and rookie Brandon Paul to help score some buckets.
With these new players, this will cause the floor to spread for Leonard. He will have the option to score or drive and kick to the open man. As a result, this will cause an increase in Leonards assist numbers.
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Although last season is over, let’s take a look a closer look at Leonard’s numbers. Because of Basketball-Reference, we are able to see some advanced stats.
First, we are going to look at Leonard’s assist percentage. A player’s assist percentage is an estimated percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor. Leonard’s percentage was 18.9 percent last season.
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This number is way too low for a player of Leonard’s level. All-Stars Russell Westbrook and James Harden saw their percentages in the 50’s. So what does this mean exactly? While there is no doubt that Leonard is a superstar talent, he still has areas that need to be worked on.
With a usage percentage of 31.1 percent, it is obvious that Leonard is the primary option. Unlike Westbrook and Harden, who are their team’s primary option, Leonard is failing to get more players involved on offense.
In an article done by Jeff Garcia of news4sanantonio.com, Leonard has made his goal for the season clear. He wants another championship.
Kawhi Leonard's goal next season – winning the ultimate prize https://t.co/7DCKRJl126 #spurs #gospursgo #nba pic.twitter.com/8FAx2PP3qr
— JeffGSpursZone (@JeffGSpursZone) September 26, 2017
But, unless his teammates involved more, Leonard’s goal will be a struggle.
Since there are more new faces within the team, Leonard now has options. Like mentioned above, Gay and Paul are crucial.
Most noteworthy is Gay. The 6’8″ small forward is bouncing back from an Achilles injury from last season. Before the injury, Gay averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
If the Spurs want to see success, Gay will have to either replicate or improve those numbers. There is a chance that Gay and Leonard will be on the floor at the same time. As a result, Leonard will have more options to pass instead of score.
If Gay can deliver on his open looks, this will cause Leonard’s assist percentage to rise. It is also worth noting that veteran point guard Patty Mills is coming off a 40 percent 3-point season.
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Because Leonard needs to work on distributing the ball, that doesn’t mean he needs to give up scoring. He still has the green light and is the team’s primary option. But, don’t be surprised to see others getting more touches.
Leonard seems to only be getting better. And he has made it clear that he isn’t looking for an MVP season, he is looking for a championship season. To do so, the team needs to step up.