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Why Kawhi Needs to Improve More as a Passer than a Ballhandler


Everybody seems too caught up on what improvements Kawhi Leonard has in store for us in the coming season. It is understandable. He was arguably the best and most consistent Spur during that 7-game series against LeBron and the Miami Heat. The promise and potential is undeniable. Pop has even expressed his plan to call some more plays for Kawhi, which was later on confirmed by his teammates. Nothing really new there... except that word "more" which tells us something Pop realized during the playoffs - that Kawhi is also an effective and efficient offensive option.

J. Gomez summed this all up in his great piece. Kawhi was very effective in the low block. His extra long arms and high release point make his low post attempts difficult to contest, much less block. He rarely turned the ball over while posting up, which is much to Pops liking, as much as it is an indication that the ballhandling department isn't the foremost facet of his game that he has to improve on the most. If my guess is right, Pop isn't going to play Kawhi at the 2 spot any time soon, anyway. The small forward position is admittedly our thinnest position in the roster. Common sense therefore dictates that we ought not to deplete that spot even more by allowing our primary SF to play some SG minutes. The only conceivable time that Kawhi could play at the 2 is probably on defense, if Green, our best perimeter defender, is in foul trouble or tasked to defend a bigger wing. Furthermore, the Belinelli signing, not to mention Pop's Manu-comparison, pretty much quashes any pounder's hopes of seeing Kawhi orchestrating a high pick-and-roll at the top of the key or playing one-on-one, a-la-Kobe Bryant... at least this season, that is.

This brings me to the very essence of this article. Kawhi is already a substantially able ballhandler, relative to his expected role this coming season. His ability to push the ball on the break, even in traffic, as well as his limited turnovers, should be more than enough proof of this already possessed skill. His low assist output, on the other hand, is something he could very much improve on. As J. Gomez aptly predicted in his article, the plays that Pop is going to call for Kawhi will be at the post. If I may expand that prediction a little bit, there's a very high likelihood of Pop employing a pick-and-roll or a pick-and-pop on either side inside the arc (or in the low block), with Kawhi as the facilitator and Splitter, Diaw, or Duncan as the other half of the two-man game. Kawhi's excellent handle as a post player was very evident in last year's playoffs.

Short bounce passes and hand-offs are skills that could not only vastly improve Kawhi's effectiveness as a player, but could potentially add another dimension to our team's offense, as a whole. Imagine if Kawhi learns a few tricks from Boris Diaw in terms of interior passing and seeing the play before it unfolds... wouldn't that be scary for opposing teams?

Sooner than later, Kawhi could become a modern-day Scottie Pippen. The defensive acumen is already there... the passing skills and overall offensive facilitating skills will come, but not drastically. He will have to learn it without deviating from what worked well last season... gradually... little by little... slowly, but surely. All he has to do is to keep pounding that rock.

This is fan-created content on PoundingtheRock.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.

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