San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard injury opens temporary opportunities

By Rob Wolkenbrod
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Kawhi Leonard won’t miss important games, for now, but an opportunity is there for another San Antonio Spurs to shine.

At Saturday’s Silver and Black Open Scrimmage, Kawhi Leonard was notably absent. The San Antonio Spurs eventually announced he wouldn’t play then, or for the entire preseason, due to a quad injury. A timetable for his return wasn’t provided.

Leonard’s injury raises questions, particularly for who fills in for him in the starting lineup. It’s some deja vu from the Western Conference Finals, when an ankle injury caused him to miss most of the series. The Spurs failed to win a game and went out of the playoffs on a sour note.

Jonathon Simmons replaced Leonard and played around 30 minutes per game. The offensive impact was gone, with Simmons’ defensive prowess not enough to make up for the Warriors’ high-powered offense.

Simmons left the Spurs in the offseason, so he obviously can’t replace Leonard this time. Opportunities will be in play, at least for the preseason, for the player that gets the minutes.

Kyle Anderson

Anderson will enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2017-18. He hasn’t stood out in three seasons, with 3.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 183 appearances.

Double-digit minutes will be available in the preseason with Leonard out. The roster still has close to 20 players, but team experience should prevail in getting him an extra opportunity on the court. He can ride on a decent performance from the Silver and Black Scrimmage and show he can provide enough offensive ability to at least earn extra minutes, in case Leonard misses regular season time.

Rudy Gay

Gay is still recovering him a ruptured Achilles he suffered in January. He might be pain free, but look for caution with his inclusion in the rotation.

However, if Gay can go at 100 percent, maybe the Spurs give him a few extra minutes in the preseason to see what he can handle. Players coming off Achilles injuries typically don’t shine, but what if he defies expectations and shows similar athleticism to his 2016 form?

When Leonard returns, Gay likely becomes the Spurs’ sixth man. For the time being, the team can see what they have in somewhat extended action.

We see you, @RudyGay ? https://t.co/4x3WLeMyMd

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) September 30, 2017

Bryn Forbes

Forbes might open the season at the end of the bench, but if he plays like he did in the 2017 Summer League, it will be difficult for Gregg Popovich to keep it that way.

No Leonard means everyone that plays shooting guard or small forward can move at least one spot up in the rotation. Whether that leads to just three or five extra minutes for Forbes, it allows a larger stage to showcase himself. That’s through five games, so if he can muster at least 15-20 more minutes than the potential plan before the Claw’s injury.

It will be tough for Forbes to get ample regular season minutes, but he can always make Popovich think for an extra minute or two when deciding the 2017-18 rotation for Opening Night.

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Opportunities are abound for Spurs players in the preseason. With Leonard out, who will rise?

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