The San Antonio Spurs are expecting big things this year from third-year forward Kawhi Leonard. Chances are Leonard won’t disappoint. 2013 promises to be a big year for Leonard, as the talented young swing man seems poised to break out this upcoming season.
Kawhi Leonard came onto the scene two seasons ago, when he averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds per game as a rookie and made the NBA All Rookie No. 1 team. He improved on these numbers last season, averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds per game in the regular season. However, it was his play during the playoffs, particularly the NBA Finals, when Leonard truly turned some heads.
This upcoming season, Leonard will have a more prominent role in the Spurs’ offense. It takes a lot for a young player to gain Gregg Popovich’s trust, but it appears Leonard has been able to do that. The Spurs cannot rely quite as much on their Big 3 anymore, particularly Manu Ginobili, and Leonard appears more than capable of producing in an increased role. Offensively, Leonard is already better than most projected he would ever be. If he develops a one-on-one game to compliment his 3 point shooting and finishing ability, he has a legitimate chance to be a No. 1 or No. 2 option on a contending team. Defensively Leonard has been a difference maker since day one with his athleticism and ridiculous 7-foot-1 wingspan. His defensive abilities are already elite, but will also continue to improve.
I have already written on why I believe Leonard has the ability to become a star one day in this league. He may make the jump as early as this upcoming season or he may not. I at least expect Leonard to become the consistent third option on the Spurs this season, and their best perimeter defender. Statistically, he will continue to trend upward as he has the past couple of seasons — just how much is the question. Expect great things from Leonard this upcoming season.