photo from: http://sinbapointforward.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/kawhi-leonard-rankings.jpg?w=600&h=489.
I knew someone said this "Good. Better. Best.". I just don't know who. ;)
Hold your horses guys. Not yet. But he is getting there.
What is interesting about the playoffs of 2009 to 2011? NOTHING!
2010. Spurs returned the Mavericks the favour of a first round exit before a straight nose dive against the Suns. Dragic happened. Ugh!
2011. Memphis. Ugh!
So what happened? A lot happened to the Spurs during that 3-year span but their playoffs "reelings" coincided with the drop of their defensive prowess. The drop of their defensive prowess coincided, of course, with the decline and eventual trading of Bruce Bowen. If we take the offensive aspect of the game, Bowen is right there sitting with the basketball gods, sipping nectar, drinking wine and wearing a bow tie. Yes, he is THAT good. No one will argue with that fact. If you will argue with that, well, I didn’t hear you.
So after Bowen retired, the Spurs was then looking for a replacement. Keith Bogans came in and it didn’t work. George Hill was already with the team and was learning from Bowen but because of his 6’3" stature, he can only do so much against the Kevin Durants, Dirk Nowitskis, LeBron Jameses and other big, tall, perimeter-oriented offense superstars of the world. So with no Bowen replacement to man the perimeter, Pop, by virtue of no choice, elected to win through offense. At some point during those years, the Spurs were even compared to the 7SOL Suns. They got by in the regular season but met disaster in the playoffs. Two first round exits and one 0-4 in the second round says it all.
Then the 2011 draft came. Fresh from the brutal and merciless mauling by the Grizzlies, the Spurs made a bold gamble, trading Pop-favorite, very-long-you-can-twss-him-albeit-still-small back up poing guard George Hill for a guy with very loooooooooonnnnngggg arms and very biiiigggggg hands from San Diego State. He was supposed to be the next Bowen based on scouting reports. I felt curious upon reading the news. Who is this Kawhi (I read it as /kah wee/ that time) Leonard guy and why did PATFO traded away a starter quality player for an unknown rookie. Then the rest is history. PATFO fooled Indiana. Yes they did.
Next thing we know is that he has been compared to Bowen. Some, including me, even suggested that he is the second coming of Bruce. As it turned out, he was more of a disruptor than a lockdown like Bowen and yes, not at the same level as Bowen is. Even now in his 3rd year he still is not, well, not yet. Bowen gets into the head of whoever he is guarding and stays in their for another couple of nights, Kawhi is more like a sleeve (for now). Right Bron? Bowen gives his man a schizophrenia, Kawhi gives migraine that last for 48 minutes then a slap in the face from Hulk(for now again). Offensively though, Kawhi
murders eats Bruce alive. Chews him real good too.
IMHO, I think the Pippen comparison is not that far-fetched. It’s not laughable at all. Both played the two forward positions. Both very good two-way players. Might I say, Kawhi is doing a little better in his 3rd year than Pippen did in his.
Here are their 3rd year stats.
PER GAME: 16.5ppg, 6.7rpg, 5.4apg, 2.6spg and 1.2bpg but he plays 38.4 minutes.
PPER36: 15.4ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.1apg, 2.4spg, 1.4bpg.
Shoots 48.9% from the field, 25% from beyond the arc and 67.5% from the line.
PER GAME: 12.8ppg, 6.3rpg, 2apg, 1.8spg, 0.7bpg in just 29.2mpg
PER 36: 15.7ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.4apg, 2.2spg, 0.9bpg
Shoots 52.1% from the field, 37.9% from the beyond the arc and 80.2% from the line.
Now, looking at their per game stats will not say it all. Sure Pippen scores almost 4 more points than Kawhi but he is also logging in 9 more minutes. Looking at their per36 though, we will see a better alikeness of the two. In fact, aside from the glaring APG discrepancy, all else is virtually identical.
Kawhi though, shoots better from anywhere on the floor. This may be attributed to Pippen averaging 14 attempts per game compared to Kawhi’s 9.8. You miss more when you shot more. Plus, Pippen is Jordan’s #2, sometimes he was even Chicago’s 1B. Kawhi is like San Antone’s 3rd/4th option(for now againx2). Nonetheless, Kawhi is more efficient. Kawhi has still a long way to go but I think if Pop gives him the same minutes Pippen had and be able to play as Parker’s #2, he will produce the same result as Pippen did in his 3rd year.
I understand that every individual is unique and special and no two persons are alike, even twins, but to be compared to a Hall-Of-Famer is something even Kawhi should be proud of.
Potential when mixed with hardwork, right environment and right attitude, most of the time, will push you to greatness. So far, Kawhi is showing that. My wild guess is, he will be a Hall-Of-Famer.
*stats from basketball-reference.com