Kawhi Leonard is an all-star starter. It should really come to no-one’s surprise, but Kawhi’s transition back to the West has resulted in a starting spot for an event to showcase long threes and massive dunks to the fans who drool at the idea of seeing the game’s best share the one court.
All-star nod aside, it has been a tough season for Kawhi Leonard. Still hampered by the injury that plagued him two seasons ago, he has yet to play a back-to-back this year. His start to the season was very promising, looking sharp with his scoring and providing a never-seen-before playmaking touch which he had added to his game over the offseason.
That fast start slowed to a halt quite quickly, as he struggled to hit shots in the paint and in the restricted area especially, the Clippers staying atop the West due to the talent they have to make up for Kawhi’s mini-slump (emphasis on mini).
For a long time, Kawhi Leonard has been one of the NBA’s only players with an unlimited mid-range green light, even relying on it to win his second NBA title last season with the Toronto Raptors. And that trend has not changed, taking and making mid-range shot after shot, but even the game’s best mid-range shooters have to be prolific in the paint.
Sadly that was not the case for Kawhi to begin the year, and still has the lowest FG% from 3-10 feet of his career while taking the most shots. This is representative of someone who is hurt, and that injury has hampered him.
Credit to Doc Rivers and the medical team, the load management has really worked. After a tough period, we are beginning to see a healthy Kawhi Leonard who is mixing agression with his incredible talent to rediscover his form from last year’s playoffs.
With all that being said, Leonard has still had a good season, putting up career highs in points, rebounds and assists, but his efficiency was mediocre. His True Shooting percentage is the third lowest of his career to date, the other two being his rookie season and the injured year in San Antonio where he only played 9 games.
Also, he was still an All-Star starter, which really puts into perspective how great Kawhi is. When a down year still puts him in the top 3 forwards in the West, that is representative of an all-time greatness that not many others will ever reach.
These last 7 games emphasised his all-star bid, playing with much more control to his game and as a result, putting up frightening numbers.
Kawhi is averaging almost 36 points, 7 rebounds and just over 5 assists while shooting from all areas at an incredible clip. He has more patience, more smarts, and has been making his shots. This has led to an impressive TS% of 63.2, which would be the highest of his career.
All these numbers have been created the same way as he always has, by scoring on all three levels. He hasn’t added anything to his game to provoke this change. All he has done is play smarter and harder, because he is finally injury-free.