San Antonio Spurs fans have seen Kawhi Leonard go from unproven rookie to consistent role player in a matter of months.
Leonard, the much-anticipated rookie who the Spurs picked up in a swap that gave them their highest draft selection since they selected Tim Duncan with the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, proved himself early on with big rebounding numbers in very little playing time.
Now with added minutes and a bigger role, we're started to see his heralded potential and exactly what he is capable of. In fact Leonard's emergence likely could've given the Spurs front office some extra comfort in trading away Richard Jefferson, who started all 41 games for the Spurs prior to the trade.
But we aren't the only one's taking notice of Leonard's recent play. Before his 19 point, nine rebound performance against the Kings on Wednesday, NBA.com released their latest rookie ladder listings. Leonard moved up to sixth n the list, moving ahead of Minnesota's Derrick Williams and Cleveland's Tristan Thompson.
The Spurs have won five straight and Leonard continues to be a key factor to this team's success. Sunday, in the final game of a back-to-back-to-back, Leonard notched his fourth career double-double with 11 points and 10 boards in a win over the Sixers. Even Leonard, who at 20 years old is the Spurs' youngest player, admits he was feeling fatigue. "It's definitely tiring on your body, playing three games in a row, competing and going hard," Leonard said. "You feel it." Leonard doesn't show signs of slowing, though. In Tuesday's win in Phoenix, the youngster had 14 and seven in 31 minutes.
Leonard is yet another weapon on a very deep Spurs team that Tim Duncan says is the deepest he's ever had.
With just one game left in March, Leonard is averaging 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 54.3 percent shooting from the field this month. Aside from what he's done stats-wise, he's also spent time defending the opposing team's best perimeter defender, which will be key in the playoffs.
While it's unlikely he will have a chance at winning Rookie of the Year, with Kyrie Irving pretty much etching his name in that trophy already, Leonard likely has the best chance in this rookie class to bring home some real hardware in just a few months.
@rtesoro440 what about hill? was he worth trading?
December 15th, 2011 (Report: Josh Howard to sign with Jazz):
"If plugged into the right lineup, Kawhi's physique, D, hustle, and youth wil make him a remarkably effective piece even in his rookie year. There's a reason why we gave George up.. This kid is going to be a star, it's just a matter of time."
@JeffProjectSpurs Hill was a stud no doubt about it. But he was undersized for being our best defender, and things on the offensive end he can do, Tony can do pretty much better. I would take Kawhi Leonard over Hill any day.
@JeffProjectSpurs @rtesoro440 Between the up coming money situation, and lack of production I've seen with George, I say absolutely! Leonard was better then hill a month ago. They play different games obviously but Leonard is much better defensively, he rebounds better, he steals better, he passes almost as good, and almost shoots just as well as hill. If they redrafted today would hill be better then 15? Would Leonard? Leonard goes 4-6 hill goes 15-20 in their respective drafts if they where repicked today.
@JeffProjectSpurs @Spursforever69 looking at it a different way, while hill would be taking a bit of the load off on tony, and would have filled in when manu was out, i really think he would have been in the way of other peoples production. with manu out would green have been able to step up or would hill get manus minutes? with hill, would tony be getting the minutes he is or would pop rest him more? (not that tony is getting to many) would hill actually take away from tonys production? i really dont know that we need another PG, mills wouldnt be a spur and george hill would be demanding 3-4 mil next year easy. i honestly think that had we been able to keep hill and still get leonard we would actually be in worst shape then we are now both as a team/play and financially. leonard for hill is/was/will be a no brainer.
@Spursforever69 @JeffProjectSpurs i dont even think hill was as good as he was made out to be. now i really liked hill, great guy, good player but i think the other spurs and pop made him better then his potential or ceiling could have been. hills 9-2-3 this season for leonard, lorbek potentially, and a pick (bertans???)???? the spurs raped the pacers. hill for leonard alone is a steal. talk about making someone look good, wow. the pacers where already talking about trading hill at the deadline as it was.