When he was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, Kawhi Leonard was instantly compared to Bruce Bowen or at least that's how Spurs fans were hoping he'd turn out.
Bowen's defense has been something the team has sorely missed since he retired. Now in his second year, Leonard has actually exceeded the expectations.
He's a really good defender who's taking the task of guarding the opposing team's best player, but he's also becoming a much more versatile offensive player than Bowen ever was in his career. He can put the ball on the floor and drive or cut to the basket off the ball for a strong finish, but he's also developed something the Spurs have desperately needed that small forwards after Bowen and before Leonard haven't been able to produce — a consistent three point shot.
Leonard stated after San Antonio's win over the Charlotte Bobcats that's a shot he's been working on.
"I was just working. I just finally got little opportunity to show it tonight," said Leonard. "Just hard work is working for me."
He's been showing opposing teams he can hit that shot with his 40% three point average. He's not only hitting that shot, but he's also bringing back the consistent corner three that Bowen had given the Spurs throughout his career in a silver and black uniform. Leonard is shooting 47% (31-66) from the corner compared to 23% (6-26) from the wing.
The Spurs have enough shooters who can make a wing three point shot in Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, and Matt Bonner along with others but a corner shot is much more valuable to the Spurs' scheme and it's showed with the team being ranked third in overall points forced (104.3ppg) and first in assist (25.3apg).
With the flow of the game being essential for a running type of offense that the Spurs have adopted, a corner three makes the offense much easier especially for a pick and roll team. Tony Parker usually gets a pick around the three point line and tends to want to drive baseline. With him driving that direction, it only opens up his teammate who set the pick a straight away lane for a finish, but also gives the ball handler more options to pass the ball or finish.
With Parker's speed and quickness being a top threat in a pick and roll, most of the time the person guarding the corner three tends to want to "cheat" and try to disrupt the drive. When that happens, the team suddenly has a wide open corner three pointer with not enough time for the defense to recover to contest the shot. It's been labeled as "the hardest shot" in basketball since there's no backboard for help on the shot, but it seems Leonard's commitment to being a consistent shooter has made the backboard irrelevant for him.