If we’ve learned anything about Kawhi Leonard so far, and we’ve learned a lot, it’s that the young small forward with king crabs for hands and a personality that makes Tim Duncan look like Magic Johnson does not lack for confidence. Leonard responded “oh, yeah” when asked earlier this season if he could someday be the equal of Carmelo Anthony, a career 25.1-point scorer over 11 NBA seasons. He said pretty much the same thing recently in regards to Indiana’s Paul George, the fellow Californian who has blossomed into an MVP candidate in his fourth season. Many had been hoping for something similar in Leonard’s third season. If not a full-fledged breakout, then close to what George did last season, when he became an All-Star for the first time. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich typically gives the media absolutely nothing it can blow out of proportion. But in Leonard’s case he did so willingly, branding him as the future face of the franchise following an impressive rookie season, then speaking of the need to carve out a larger role after Leonard capped his second with a star turn in the Finals. Viewed through that prism, Leonard’s third NBA campaign could be deemed a disappointment roughly one quarter through the regular season. Make no mistake: He remains an excellent player, one of the NBA’s elite defensive stoppers and a key cog in the Spurs machine that appears primed for yet another championship run. But in contrast to his first two seasons, during which he tantalized with steady growth spurts, the anticipated leap has yet to materialize in Year 3.
Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the ecosystem of shots
San Antonio Express-News | Dec 6