Like most San Antonio Spurs fans, when news came out on NBA Draft night 2011 the team was trading fan favorite George Hill for Kawhi Leonard, an unproven player, it did not go over very well.
Hill brought excitement, defense, scoring to the team and was not afraid to get in the face of Kobe Bryant. Leonard, on the other hand, was unproven and a relative unknown. He had big hands and that was all most knew of him.
But it seems that it wasn't just Spurs fans who did not like to see Hill be traded for Leonard. Manu Ginobili also did not like the trade and admits, it made him "angry."
When he came to the Spurs, I got really angry because enjoyed playing with George Hill. I was frustrated that they had traded him for a rookie (Kawhi Leonard). But I did not know who he was. Since his first year, despite the lockout, he showed some things. One glimpsed at his potential. But in the second half of last season, it was crazy. Truly take your hat off. The guy can play, deserves to have the ball in his hand and earned our respect. If you ask him, he will even say Pop's going to say I was surprised.
Kawhi had a breakout season with San Antonio in just his second year. He averaged 11.9 points and 6 rebounds in 31 minutes in the 2012-13 season and has slowly become a main cog in the Spurs' system. Many consider him part of the Spurs "Big 3" or the plus-1.
This new season, the Spurs will continue to rely on him to carry more of the load and slowly become the franchise player (along with Tony Parker) of the future once Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili sail off in the sunset.
As for Manu not happy with the trade initially, it might be safe to say that he and Spurs fans across the globe have liked the trade since.
Kawhi Leonard turned us into a championship team, that's why we won it last year (before we lost it in game 6)
Hill is also wasting away in Indiana's lousy slow down offense.
James Anderson is about to put up or shut up with the 76ers. In a round about way, I consider his expenditure as part of making room for Kawhi.
Kawhi is great to have regardless the argument though.
Miss George but wouldn't trade (no pun intended) what we have, are seeing and will see with Kawhi Leonard for anything.
Unless for some suicidal reason Indiana would like to send George back to us for Bonner, Nando and Joseph. Oh, and throw in Mahinmi. Sure the $ numbers totally don't work. The key there is suicidal on Indiana's part and, well, I guess Ian and George would have to be really dumb and restructure their contracts to take millions less to play for us.
I'm sure that will work out.
Before draft night, we did a live draft on Crossover Chronicles, and we took turns drafting for teams. I had Detroit in the late lottery, and I took Kawhi and had done a lot of research on him so while I thought he had a ton of potential, I thought the trade was lopsided. When I was hearing about this with other reporters at the practice facility, I was hoping we were going to get Roy Hibbert. He haden't blossomed like he has in the past two years, so I thought that would work best for us. We may never get Erazem Lorbek, but as Pop said during training camp, this has to be one of the best trades I've seen where both teams benefit. And to think the Spurs never even interviewed Kawhi. Quite the gamble, but it has paid off.
All trades require luck to work out. I would say we were very lucky on this one because it was reasonably clear that we were mainly dumping Hill to avoid his big spike in pay.
Kawhi has turned out to be better in areas (shooting and ball handling for sure) than we could have expected because he gave little indication in college in these areas.
But now we're lock in. We cannot do the same and punt Kawhi right before he is about to make the big bucks because he has already made the A Team with the HEB commercials. That makes him a lock for a long stay.
I honestly thought there was a chance we would have kept Hill and traded Parker, at least at the time it seemed reasonable (Pop playing Hill in the playoffs instead of Parker was an indication). I will say the trade shocked me, but I was never upset about the trade. After it was announced I tried to find as much info on Kawhi as I could and saw there was enough there that it could be a good gamble. As far as trades go, I think it was probably one of the most fair trades that I can think of. Talent wise, we probably got the upper hand on the trade, but sending George to
his hometown, a young team in need of some veteran guidance was a good move for the Pacers as well.
I am going to have to admit that when I heard we were trading away George Hill I too was a little upset. Hill has a lot of upside and he is proving it with the Indiana Pacers. I don't want to take anything away from Leonard because he too has a lot of potential and everyone will be in for a treat for many years to come watching him grow into the type of player we are all hoping for.