The San Antonio Spurs have had the upper hand on the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference from game one. The Spurs absolutely dominated game one, withstood a comeback from Memphis in game two, and organized a comeback of their own in game three. Now with a 3-0 lead in the series, the Spurs will be looking to sweep the Grizzlies on Monday night and advance to the NBA Finals.
There’s no question that the Spurs overall team defense, particularly on the interior, has been a huge reason for their success as they have effectively shut down Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Tony Parker’s offense and dribble-penetration has also been big for the Spurs over the first three games. However, Kawhi Leonard’s impact on the Spurs has gone largely overlooked in this series.
After Parker, Leonard is actually second on San Antonio in terms of playing time in this series, seeing the floor for 34.9 minutes per game. In the three games against Memphis, Leonard has averaged 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, one steal and one block per game while shooting a fantastic 56 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from long distance. Moreover, he currently has one of the best defensive ratings on the Spurs at 89.3.
Leonard has done a fantastic job defensively in regards to shutting down Tayshaun Prince and the Grizzlies other wings in this series. Memphis has really struggled to get much production from their wings and Leonard has been a massive reason why. The Spurs forward has also provided them with reliable offense on the drive and spotted up behind the three-point line.
The most amazing part about Leonard may be the fact that he is so unheralded for all of the things that he brings to this Spurs team. He’s their best defender on the wings and provides them a ton of versatility on the offensive end of the floor. Even if no one has really paid attention, he’s a big reason why the Spurs are on the verge of making another trip to the NBA Finals.