After a monstrous Finals performance that netted him the Finals MVP, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is now a household name in the NBA. His shy demeanor and close-lipped attitude with the media has heightened the mystery of who he is, and many remain amazed at just how much he acts like Tim Duncan in terms of this quiet, yet confident attitude.
Before the 2013-14 season, Leonard was known by many fans as the guy who missed a crucial free throw at the end of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Although Leonard suffered a heart-wrenching moment early is his career, many still expected him to improve upon his strong 2013 Finals appearance, where he averaged 15 PPG and 11 RPG with good shooting percentages against the Heat.
To begin the season, Leonard was a fine player, but nowhere close to what we saw from him during the 2013 Finals. He fractured a finger during a January contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and had to sit out 14 games as a result. During that span, the Spurs went 8-6. Not bad by any means, but certainly not up to the standards of the organization.
The result once Leonard returned was an incredible 19-game winning streak. They did not lose a single game during the month of March. It was not a coincidence that the Spurs started to find their peak form right when he returned to the lineup, and the games Leonard sat out due to injury showed just how valuable he is to the Spurs.
Now, after rightfully winning the Finals MVP award for his series-changing performance during the final three contests, and with one year left on his contract, it is rumored that Leonard will be demanding the maximum in terms of his extension with the club.
If he can channel that same energy he had during the last two postseasons into the regular season from now on, he is well worth that price, especially considering he just turned 23. It is clear that he needs to become more assertive on offense, and demonstrate during the season that he can be consistently dominant instead of just “turning it on” at certain points.
He is the cornerstone of the future for this franchise once Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire. If it was up to me, I would definitely really consider granting his wish right now before the season begins.