Welcome to the 2017-18 season player reviews, where we will be rehashing the performance of all 15 Spurs from this season (excluding two-way players Darrun Hilliard and Matt Costello) and looking towards the future. If you’ve missed any you can click here to catch up. Up next:
2017-18 stats: 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals
2017-18 salary: $18.9 million
Contract: 2 years, $41.4 million remaining (2019-20 player option)
It’s odd times when you can barely remember your MVP playing, but that’s where we are. Leonard missed the first two months of the season with what was diagnosed as quadriceps tendinopathy, returned in December only to appear in nine games over a 17-game span, and then shut himself back down as the pain in his quad persisted. He would not return to the court again after that.
When he did play, Leonard looked good — not MVP caliber, but decent enough — but it was obvious he was out of shape and not himself. Career lows in stats including field-goal percentage (.468), three-point percentage (.314), rebounds and minutes (23.3) made that obvious enough. He had one speed, clearly lacked a second gear, and his shots from distance were often short. It was also the first time in his career that his scoring average didn’t rise. Although that was bound to happen eventually, a nine-point drop-off is not exactly what most had in mind.
He looked fine in his last game — a 112-80 blowout against Denver on January 13 in which he put up a 19-8-4-4 stat-line in 29 minutes — which made it all the more mysterious when he was shut down again. There was no reason to think he wouldn’t eventually return, but days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. We eventually learned that he had sought a second medical opinion and was receiving treatment in New York, but his side always insisted that he was trying his hardest to return to the court.
It never happened. He wasn’t present while the Spurs fought hard to even make the playoffs and during a futile but admiral first round battle against the Warriors, and rumors of his unhappiness and desire to leave the team for a hoard of reasons (misdiagnosis, larger market, outside influence, etc) continue to cloud the basketball world to this day. This certainly was not the season anyone expected coming in, likely including Leonard himself.
First and foremost, the both sides need to figure out whether Leonard is staying or going. Technically he can’t go anywhere on his own accord (he has one more guaranteed year on his contract), but if he is unwilling to sign an extension this summer (or guarantee that he will next year), then the Spurs will have to start considering whether to answer those trade calls.
If things come to that it’s a topic for another article, but assuming Leonard does return he just needs to get back to 100 percent health (and maybe have an air-clearing chat with his teammates). When healthy and in MVP form, he alongside a rejuvenated LaMarcus Aldridge should make the Spurs formidable contenders once again. If not . . . we’ll just cross that bridge if we get to it.
Jan. 2 vs. Knicks: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals
Final Grade: Incomplete
(Author’s note: I have changed Derrick White’s grade from a “C” to “Incomplete”. I was still experimenting and hadn’t quite decided how I was going to grade when I wrote his, but now that I have a process down I realize if Kawhi is going to be “Incomplete”, then so should White to makes things fair. I hope that clears things up!)
Up next: Joffrey Lauvergne