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Putting the “Kawhi Leonard is a system player” argument to bed

There’s enough evidence to finally end a conversation that shouldn’t have gotten started in the first place

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two
One of the only known images of Kawhi looking angry.
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

For a fanbase that had to deal with Phil Jackson’s asteriskization of the Spurs’ first championship, and struggle against the B-word through the majority of Tim Duncan’s career, it’s not that surprising for San Antonio’s best player to be denigrated in certain circles. Ever since Kevin Durant’s “u trippin bro” tweet started a system player firestorm, (one that KD has tried to extinguish more than once) there have been questions about whether Kawhi Leonard was a star in his own right.

Enter RealGM’s Zachary Diluzio and his well-researched treatise on the subject. Whenever there are unfounded but persistent barbs thrown at your guy, it’s always nice to have a completely disinterested third party come to the rescue. Diluzio’s post is worth a complete read through, but here’s my favorite part of it.

Yet the skillset described above would fit into any system in the league. A secondary ball handler with fantastic decision-making who can efficiently post up, isolate, get out in transition, and run off screens. Where would such a player not have a massive impact?

To answer the question Kevin Durant posed back in June of 2014 - if Kawhi Leonard and Paul George switched places, George's efficiency would increase while Leonard's decreased. Leonard would look worse, and George would look better. No question about that. But that's what happens when you play on a better team, with better coaching and better roster construction. Tim Duncan also played for the Spurs, and the Spurs played to his strengths as well - is Tim Duncan a system player?

Leading up to that excerpt is some excellent analysis and an honest look at Kawhi’s strengths and areas for improvement. Hopefully, it’ll just be a matter of time before this topic fizzles out and we can look back on this whole thing and laugh at it like we laugh at Phil today.