A Look at Kawhi Leonard Stats & His Legacy From San Antonio to Toronto
What a year its been for Kawhi Leonard. The story of that controversial trade needs no further explanation, neither does the ensuing backlash.But in lieu of the January 3rd matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs, its worth examining Leonards past and present performances. Hes accomplished a lot in his career, establishing a name for himself with the San Antonio Spurs, and proving himself as arguably the best player in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors.
The Past: Kawhi Leonards Stats & Tenure
Remember Leonards early days in the league? He was the 15th overall pick in 2011, originally drafted by the Indiana Pacers but then shipped off to the San Antonio Spurs that same night. At the end of the 2011 season, he placed fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the 2012 NBA All-Rookie Team. He was also chosen to play for the 2012 USA mens basketball Select Team (which trained with the Olympic team). During the 2012-13 NBA finals, when the Spurs faced the Miami Heat (who they lost to), Leonard averaged 14.6 points and 11.1 rebounds. Not at bad for a sophomore.In his 2013-14 season, Leonard established a season-high of 26 points against the Memphis Grizzlies and finished the season with an average of 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.7 steals while shooting 52.2% from the field. His performance helped the team reach a 62-20 record, making them the number seed in the NBA at that time. Best of all, Leonard took his first championship ring home as the Spurs won the finals against the Heat, avenging their loss from the previous season. During the finals, Leonard accomplished quite a few feats apart from winning his first championship. He scored his then career-high of 29 points in Game 3 of the series. Throughout the series, he averaged 17.8 points, had a 61% shooting percentage, and was named the NBA Finals MVP. He was the third youngest player to win the award (at just 22), behind Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers (who won both awards in 1980 and 1982, at ages 20 and 22 respectively).
Kawhi Leonard Faces Struggles and Successes During the 2014-15 season, Leonard missed a few games due to blurred vision (from conjunctivitis) and an injured right hand. Nevertheless, he still had notable career highlights such as a career-high of 7 steals and an NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. He also reached another career-high, this time, scoring 32 points in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series win against the Los Angeles Clippers (although the Spurs lost). The 2015-16 season was no less grand for Leonard. He re-signed with the Spurs to a five-year, $90 million contract. He went on to reach a few more career highs such as a 33-point game (a 102-95 win over the Toronto Raptors) and was named as a starter for the 2016 All-Star Game. To top it all off, Leonard won Defensive Player of the Year honors and was the runner-up in the MVP voting behind Stephen Curry.The 2016-17 season essentially picked up where Leonard had left off the year prior. He scored a new career-high of 35 points in the Fall of 2016 against the Golden State Warriors. Afterward, he broke that record in January 2017 scoring 38 points in a loss against the Phoenix Suns. Leonard started again for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and, yet again, he scored a new career high with 41 points just days later. In March 2017, he was named Player of the Week for the fourth time in his career and had his 91st straight game where he scored in double-digits, tying with Tim Duncan who did it in 2002-03. Unfortunately, his season ended on a low note when he injured his ankle in addition to suffering defeat to Golden State who won the finals that year.The 2017-18 season was a tough one for Leonard, considering the fact he was plagued by an injured right quadriceps. He did post up some pretty high scoring games but, as you likely remember, he didnt have a very productive season because of his injuries. He suffered a partial tear in his left shoulder and was sidelined to rehabilitate his right quadriceps To top it off, Leonard had several disputes with the Spurs in terms of how the team was handling the injury and his season was cut short.
Present: His Role on the Raptors
That brings us to the 2018-19 season.Leonard started strong, scoring 24 points and 12 rebounds in their season-opener (and win) against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He then went on to score a series of 30+ point games against the likes of the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves. In what would be said is out of character for Leonard, he received his first technical foul in November 2018 in a win over Miami. He scored two 37-point games between late November and late December. The first game was a win over the Golden State Warriors and the second win was over the Cavaliers. He then started 2019 with a bang. He scored a career-high of 45 points in a win over the Utah Jazz on January 1st (Fun fact: DeMar DeRozan did it last year on January 1st, scoring his career-high of 52 points). With the January 3rd matchup against the Spurs, the excitement in both San Antonio and Toronto is boiling over as we get to see DeRozan and Leonard go head-to-head. Both players are in peak form and have hit new strides under their new coaches. Of course, the question remains as to whom will emerge victorious, and which team got the better end of the deal.
An Eye On Kawhi
Kawhi Leonard may come across as shy (or even aloof), but his playing ability speaks volumes - hes nothing short of beastly when hes firing on all cylinders. With the numbers he continues to put up, theres no denying that Leonard will solidify himself as one of the greats, a dominant force to look out for. It will be interesting to see what the Spurs-Raptors match will produce, considering hes facing off with his old team. It will also be a special night for DeRozan and Raptors fans as they see him face them in a reunion. Get your Raptors Tickets or Spurs Tickets - theres still plenty to go around!