Kawhi Leonard: Already better than Bruce Bowen


Kawhi Leonard is already better than Bruce Bowen. On offense.  He's not there on defense yet, but there aren't many players who are elite defenders 120 games in to their career. This isn't even about Bowen or Leonard, rather about the growing versatility of Kawhi's offense.

When he was drafted, a lot of players looked at Leonard and thought maybe he could turn in to a 3 and D type player that Bowen was, or at the very least be the D type player Bowen was.  Less than two years into his career, Leonard is proving his game is more than that.  Flashes of this started in Summer League, when Leonard and Cory Joseph split time running the offense. 

It wasn't a very polished product, but you could see the confidence he had to create his own offense.

When the season started, Leonard, by no fault of his own, reverted back to his previous role in the San Antonio Spurs offense.  According to NBA.com's stats site, in the first month of the season 64 percent of Leonard's shots came at the rim or from three.  As a role player in the Spurs system, this is where you want to finish the bulk of your plays anyway since they're the two most efficient shots in basketball.  However, if Leonard is going to mold his game into being more of scorer, he was going to need to develop an in between game.

Since the All-Star break, he's been able to do just that.  Half of his made baskets have come in the restricted area but his shot volume overall has increased and his shot selection has become more diverse.  60.5 percent of his 167 shot attempts have come in the restricted area, 28 percent have come from three point range and 22 percent have been from mid-range.  Even better, he's shooting 51 percent on those mid-range attempts and his field goal percentage has decreased by just .5 percent since he's taken an increased role in the offense. Below is Leonard's shot charts from last season.

You'll notice that Leonard's mid-range game wasn't very good in his first season and he didn't take a ton of shots there to begin.  Compare that to this season (below) and you can just how much work Leonard has put in to becoming a better mid-range shooter. The number of shot attempts also shows how much more confidence the Spurs staff has in him to shoot.

Leonard's shot is still a work in progress.  His three point shot hasn't improved as much as anyone thought it would, but as we've seen late in games, there isn't a shot he's afraid to take.

As the Express News' Dan McCarney pointed out yesterday, Leonard has spent quite a bit of time working with Spurs coaches on his offense this season.  I don't want to pretend to know what his ceiling is, but every time I watch him play or look at his stats, I see something new that I like.  For the time being, his development means that's one more guy opposing teams have to worry about creating for themselves.  In a Spurs system that's already difficult to stop, that's extremely valuable, especially come playoff time.