By Dan Schultz @DSchultz89 on August 28, 2014
Kawhi Leonard had one of the most impressive Finals performances to memory this past year when his San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in five games to clinch the NBA championship. Leonard's confidence in his jump shot and suffocating defense on LeBron James proved to be the difference maker, and it was a welcome surprise to the Spurs which always thought Leonard possessed star-power ability.
Now it's time for him to become one.
Leonard’s three-point shooting has remained steady at around 38 percent, which is already a very good clip. He can only get better at this skill thanks to the Spurs possessing one of the best shooting coaches in the world in Chip Engelland who has already reshaped many Spurs’ players shooting form. If he could average 40 percent or better from outside, he is definitely very close to becoming a star in this league.
For as good of a ball handler as Leonard is, his passing will need to start to take off this season if he wants to go to the next level. He is on the best passing team in the league, and with defenders biting on his shot a lot more this year, he could definitely find his teammates for wide open shots if he puts the necessary work and studying in on this aspect of his game.
After watching the Finals and seeing the confidence Leonard had pulling up from just about anywhere, it is going to become instinctual for many defenders this season to jump on the first shot fake they see from him. This is a huge advantage for the super athletic Leonard, who could take some cues from Manu Ginobili who is a master of the shot fake. A good pump fake means more drives to the basket for Leonard, which is where he wants to be.
Leonard has the strength to post up a lot of players at his position down low. He might want to take some tips from Tim Duncan who could show him the proper footwork and how to get the best possible shot off over his defender. Leonard actually has a pretty nice hook shot, but the release is sometimes forced instead of natural. If he can work a go-to move and his overall footwork, watch out.
Leonard knows now that he can be a star in this league. The whole world was watching during the 2014 NBA Finals when he flat-out took over that series and led the Spurs to their fifth championship. Now, at only 23, he needs to channel these short bursts of confidence into an entire season and really show the world that he knows he can become an All-Star talent in the NBA.
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