After a spectacular performance in the NBA Finals that culminated in receiving the award of Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard is no doubt the future cornerstone for the San Antonio Spurs organization. One of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Leonard’s offensive game and skill set have quickly improved since joining the Spurs in 2011. He has arguably been the key player for the Spurs over the past two playoff runs.
A close friend (and summer workout buddy) of Leonard who looks and plays very similar to the way Leonard did in his first season in the NBA is Chicago Bulls winger Tony Snell. Both Leonard and Snell played for the same high school team in Riverside, Ca. (King High School) and won state title together.
“He’s a really great player. He motivates me to get better every day because of what he did and what I see he did in high school in college. I feel like I can do the same thing,” Snell explained to a CSN Chicago Insider.
Like Leonard, Snell’s defensive prowess and ability to guard top-level competition garnered him playing time in coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation throughout the second half of the season. In his first season with the Bulls, Snell averaged 10.1 points, 2.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. His offensive game needs to continue to improve, but so did Leonard’s when he entered the league.
Snell’s athleticism, defensive ability and “gym rat” mentality give me hope that he can reach another level closer to Leonard next season. He’ll get more opportunities next season, regardless of who the team signs during free agency, and may be a potential replacement for Jimmy Butler after next season when he becomes a restricted free agent. Snell has a lot to prove next season to both management and fans, but I foresee a huge leap for him in 2014. Spending time with Leonard in the gym this summer can only benefit Snell and could potentially help mold him into the Chicago version of this year’s Finals MVP.