The curious case of Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard may hold San Antonio's future in his massive hands (via thefanmanifesto)

Kawhi Leonard may hold San Antonio’s future in his massive hands (via thefanmanifesto)

Many Spurs fans and analysts believe the future of the team lies in the unusually massive hands. Seriously, they’re 11.5 inches wide.  But while the masses flock aboard the hype train that has been running for the past two years, I warn “Not so fast!”

Leonard has all of the physical specs of a superstar, boasting an unreal 87 inch wingspan to coincide with his 6-foot-7 body.  The guy has broad shoulders and a quick step off the dribble that has proved to give even elite defenders like LeBron James trouble.  But does he have the attitude to take over a team once the Big 3 collect their pension in the near future?

Maybe.

Kawhi Leonard has proven to be a perfect fit for the Spurs organization with his laid back attitude to both the in-game pressures and post-game interviews.  He avoids the limelight just as Duncan and Ginobili did before him (not so much Parker; i.e. the Eva Longoria debacle), but without the nightly core help that comes with playing alongside 2 high-caliber teammates.

The key to Kawhi Leonard’s success comes from the Spurs’ ability to rebuild a core group centered around Leonard himself.

This is going to be tough to do considering the longterm success the Spurs have had; if they continue to be a contender in the West, this means less chances or need to rebuild in the offseason.  More success in the regular season often results in less success in the offseason, especially via the draft.

The Spurs pride themselves on their ability to draft and scout among the best in the NBA.  Tony Parker was drafted 28th overall back in 2001, and Manu Ginobili was taken at a surprising 57th overall in 1999.  These two are a testament to San Antonio’s elite front office, able to continuously pick out diamonds in the rough.

Even though the Spurs continue to bring in promising talent from the later picks in the draft, there still isn’t much opportunity to acquire a big-name, franchise player to replace Tim Duncan when that time comes.  Unlike most other players that make up the diverse San Antonio roster, Duncan was, after all, the first overall pick way back in 1997.

Duncan may be one of the top 3 power forwards of all time, a true impossibility to both replace and live up to for young Kawhi Leonard.

The upside to this scenario comes with the steady improvement that Leonard shown through his first two seasons, increasing his scoring average from 7.9 to 11.9 points per game.  He has remained steady at 11.8 points per game this season, but has stepped up recently, posting 14.2 points in the last 5 contests on only 31 average minutes.

Kawhi can step up when needed, but can he carry a team? Some say yes, some say no. I think he has three of the best players in the world to learn from, namely Tim Duncan.  Both players carry the same demeanor, wanting to be seen rather than heard, letting their play do all of their talking.

Even though Leonard has shown promise with the ability to post 20+ points on any given night, his ability to take over and lead will remain a mystery until the Big 3 eventually part ways.

I’m not selling on Kawhi Leonard yet, but I certainly have no reason to buy on him either.