San Antonio Spurs fans have seen Kawhi Leonard go from unproven rookie to consistent role player in a matter of months.
Leonard, the much-anticipated rookie who the Spurs picked up in a swap that gave them their highest draft selection since they selected Tim Duncan with the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, proved himself early on with big rebounding numbers in very little playing time.
Now with added minutes and a bigger role, we’re started to see his heralded potential and exactly what he is capable of. In fact Leonard’s emergence likely could’ve given the Spurs front office some extra comfort in trading away Richard Jefferson, who started all 41 games for the Spurs prior to the trade.
But we aren’t the only one’s taking notice of Leonard’s recent play. Before his 19 point, nine rebound performance against the Kings on Wednesday, NBA.com released their latest rookie ladder listings. Leonard moved up to sixth n the list, moving ahead of Minnesota’s Derrick Williams and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson.
The Spurs have won five straight and Leonard continues to be a key factor to this team’s success. Sunday, in the final game of a back-to-back-to-back, Leonard notched his fourth career double-double with 11 points and 10 boards in a win over the Sixers. Even Leonard, who at 20 years old is the Spurs’ youngest player, admits he was feeling fatigue. “It’s definitely tiring on your body, playing three games in a row, competing and going hard,” Leonard said. “You feel it.” Leonard doesn’t show signs of slowing, though. In Tuesday’s win in Phoenix, the youngster had 14 and seven in 31 minutes.
Leonard is yet another weapon on a very deep Spurs team that Tim Duncan says is the deepest he’s ever had.
With just one game left in March, Leonard is averaging 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 54.3 percent shooting from the field this month. Aside from what he’s done stats-wise, he’s also spent time defending the opposing team’s best perimeter defender, which will be key in the playoffs.
While it’s unlikely he will have a chance at winning Rookie of the Year, with Kyrie Irving pretty much etching his name in that trophy already, Leonard likely has the best chance in this rookie class to bring home some real hardware in just a few months.