When news broke that Tony Parker would be out for a month with an ankle sprain, the San Antonio Spurs - the NBA‘s best team - looked vulnerable for the first time all year. With a 47-14 record, the Spurs remain atop the NBA, and I think Kawhi Leonard will be a big factor while Parker’s on the sidelines.
Leonard was the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and has stepped up big after a rookie season of decent production. Thus far in 2012-13, the Spurs guard is averaging 11.0 points per game and 5.4 rebounds a night. This is the first time in Leonard’s career that he will be playing without Parker, and it will definitely pay dividends for the 21-year old’s leadership skills.
In the first game in Parker’s absence, Leonard had a great game versus the Detroit Pistons, scoring 14 points and hauling in six rebounds to go along with two assists.
The talk around the league is just how potent this Spurs team can be if they remain healthy and Leonard steps up even more. Many times, injury sparks opportunity and in this case, I think Gregg Popovich is going to have a stellar team come playoff time. In 2012, the Spurs had an equally impressive regular season, but surprised many by fading in the postseason.
I think Leonard’s maturity will help to carry this team deeper into the playoffs, as the experience he is going to garner with Parker out of the lineup is immeasurable. This injury will also improve the team’s depth at point guard, as Cory Joseph got the start on Sunday at point guard for the first time all season.