In the above video, I talk to CineSport’s Brian Clark about Kawhi Leonard’s breakout season and why he continues to fly under the radar with the Spurs.
Kawhi Leonard is averaging 20.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 steals and .9 blocks this season, while leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 35-6 record (which is just 2.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors).
Leonard is shooting an NBA-best 48.3 percent from three-point range on four attempts per game, which is even more impressive since his shot was considered his biggest weakness when he entered the NBA in 2011.
While he has earned individual accolades like a Finals MVP award and Defensive Player of the Year award, he still seems to be underrated. When discussing the game’s stars, Leonard’s name rarely comes up even though the numbers suggest he certainly belongs in that conversation. It’s also worth noting that he’s just 24 years old, so his best basketball is very likely still ahead of him.
Advanced analytics show just how dominant he is and how much he impacts each game. He’s ranked fifth in the NBA in PER behind only superstars Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. And consider this: Leonard is ranked first in Defensive Win Shares, second in Overall Win Shares, third in Box Plus/Minus and third in Value Over Replacement Player. Put simply, good things happen when he’s on the court.
Yet, despite all of this, Leonard has never been named to an All-Star team and he isn’t on pace to start in this year’s All-Star game based on the latest returns. He’s also rarely mentioned in MVP conversations, even though his numbers are right up there with the usual candidates like Curry, James and Durant.
He could even be in the mix for the Most Improved Player award since his game has made such a significant leap this season. He has emerged as one of the best two-way players in the league, much like last year’s Most Improved Player: Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls.
Leonard’s demeanor is a big reason why he doesn’t get the credit and attention that other stars do; he’s quiet and shy and, quite frankly, doesn’t care about personal accolades. But even still, it’s about time he starts getting more recognition for being the Spurs’ catalyst and impacting all facets of the game.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.