The importance of Kawhi Leonard’s development: Part 95

Kawhi LeonardThere were whispers about it during the Western Conference Finals but the talk about San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard's development and ceiling began in earnest leading up to NBA Summer League and during it.  It was only two games and against lesser opponents, but Leonard showed real promise as a primary or secondary scorer.  Leonard's development isn't just important for the Spurs' title chances in 2012-2013, but also for free agency next summer and beyond.

The Spurs would like Leonard to be more of a go to scorer.  If that happened, it would create roster flexibility like the Spurs have never seen.  If we look at Kawhi Leonard on offense last season, we find that over 60 percent of his offense came from the corner three and the restricted area, where he excelled as an offensive rebounder.  Skills like offensive rebounding don't exactly go anywhere.  The skill itself will always be there, though the oppurtunities may lessen as the rest of Leonard's game develops.

If we were to assume Leonard was going to be that type of offensive player for the forseeable future, one could infer that the Spurs would need to find a more ball dominant, scoring guard in free agency to fill the eventual void Manu Ginobili will leave behind(someone like Tyreke Evans comes to mind).  If Leonard can become more of an offensive focal point, the Spurs could pursue a defensive minded guy like Josh Smith or Taj Gibson in free agency.  They could also focus more on bringing in another big man like Al Jefferson or Paul Milsap who is better known for their offense.  Either way, Leonard's growth as a player means the Spurs can focus on one big fish instead of trying to plug a hole both on the wing and in the post (though that plan has proven effective in the past).

According to HoopsHype.com, the Spurs have just under $38 million in committed salaries past next season, meaning about $20 million in salary cap space.  Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and DeJuan Blair will be unrestricted free agents and Tiago Splitter will be restricted.  That's not to mention tradeable players and contracts they have in Danny Green and Boris Diaw.  So the flexibility is there with or without Leonard's development, but Leonard's game this coming season will be key at the trade deadline, as it was last season and it will certainly be key next summer when the Spurs have a ton of cash available (watch, now they'll just re-sign all their own players again next summer).

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