The San Antonio Spurs are routinely a contender for the NBA title, due in part to their ability to find players and get the most out of them. A 2011 draft night trade with the Indiana Pacers landed them forward Kawhi Leonard, and he averaged 13.5 points, nine rebounds, 1.8 steals and one assist per game during the team’s playoff run last year over nearly 37 minutes per game (21 games). Add that to his strong finish over the final 25 games of the regular season (14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game), and Leonard looks headed for a breakout season in 2013-2014.
Should fantasy basketball owners buy into the hype surrounding Leonard?
Leonard missed 24 games last season with a quad issue, and averaged 11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.6 assists per game in over 31 minutes per contest while shooting over 49 percent from the floor (37.4 percent from three-point range). San Antonio’s “Core Three” (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli) is getting toward the end of their careers and will surely continue to be rested at times during the regular season, so Leonard could often be the best player on the floor for the team.
The Spurs do not have another small forward on the roster right now, so Leonard is in line to average 40 minutes per game as the clear-cut starter. Leonard is also expected to become a primary part of the team’s offense, and coach Gregg Popovich has confirmed that notion by suggesting he will design plays for Leonard and wants more shots from him without fear of reprimand.
With more minutes and more shots (9.1 per game last season) presumably available, Leonard is in line to set career-highs across the board this year. His per-36 minute averages from last season (13.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.8 assists) are a solid baseline projection, with plenty of room for upside as long as last year’s leg issue does not re-occur. Owners in leagues that use shooting percentages can also hold Leonard in high regard, since he made over 82 percent of his free throws last season and has not shot below 49 percent from the floor in either of his first two seasons.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.