In what was an injury-filled season for the San Antonio Spurs’ all-star forward, Kawhi Leonard showed in spurts he is still one of the best in the league.
Before the San Antonio Spurs could even hit the ground running, news broke that Kawhi Leonard would be out for the start of the season with a right quadriceps injury. This injury came on the heels of re-aggravating an ankle injury in the first quarter of the 2017 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors in which he landed on Zaza Pachulia‘s foot. It was first announced he would miss the preseason before being ruled out for the first 27 games of the season.
Leonard made his season debut on December 12th against the Dallas Mavericks in a 95-89 loss. While he was limited to under 16 minutes, Leonard still had 13 points with six rebounds, a steal and a block. Against the Houston Rockets three days later Leonard was limited again, but still chipped in with 12 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks as the Spurs lost by 15. After the loss, Leonard would be inactive for four of the next seven games.
On January 2nd, after an 18-point game against the Detroit Pistons, Leonard turned in the best performance of his shortened season against the New York Knicks. He played 30 minutes and scored 25 points, both season-highs. He also had four steals and tied a season-high with eight rebounds to help the Spurs secure a 100-91 victory.
Leonard would only play in two more games. On January 5th in a win against the Phoenix Suns, he scored 21 points with four steals and three blocks. However, Leonard suffered a partial tear in his right shoulder and would miss the next three games. Leonard returned on January 13th in a 112-80 blowout win over the Denver Nuggets. In 28 minutes he scored 19 points along with eight rebounds, four steals and a block.
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Season Grade: B+
For the nine games he played in, Leonard averaged 16.2 points per game, 2.0 steals per game, one block per game and shot 46.8 percent from the field. He may not have been 100 percent healthy during any of the nine games, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year showed he is still arguably the best two-way player in the league.
Then it got dramatic…
After the Spurs announced Leonard would be out indefinitely to rehab his right quadriceps injury, the saga was on. Despite being cleared to play by team doctors, Leonard opted to get a second opinion from a specialist in New York to continue his rehabilitation process. Rumors began to swirl that he was unhappy in San Antonio and experts began stirring the pot. From mock blockbuster trades, to his appearance at a Dodgers game in his hometown of Los Angeles, everyone has debated on where Kawhi will play next season.
With the offseason now a few weeks away from truly beginning, questions may finally be answered. While Kawhi’s relationship with San Antonio might be shaky at this point, they hope to lock down their all-star forward by offering him a five-year, $219 million supermax contract this summer. When healthy, Leonard is one of the best and the Spurs hope to keep him in the Alamo City.