Kawhi Leonard… Superstar?


Kawhi Leonard has blown up over the past year. When scrolling through your Twitter timeline, if you follow basketball, Kawhi has been called a top 3 MVP candidate and at the same time “the most overrated player in the NBA.” Let’s put this conversation to rest. Let’s see if he really has the mettle that his peers like LeBron, Curry, KD, Westbrook, and CP3 have.

Defense: This one is easy. Kawhi is as good as a defender the NBA has ever seen. He can guard point guards and power forwards and he is a serious problem for anyone on the other side of the ball for him. He is strong, athletic, quick, smart, and active. He has all the tools to make a superior defender for just about any match up. Kawhi is a defensive superstar, but that’s not all it takes to be upper echelon in the league.

Offense: Kawhi has a solid offensive arsenal. He’s turned into an incredibly good three point shooter. He is in second place across the league in 3pt FG% at about 47%. He has good midrange game too and likes to post up against smaller defenders. His ball handling ability is still in the works, but he can be trusted to take the ball up the court. Kawhi’s bread and butter is working the pump fake to get past a defender, and he knows how to handle this open space by attacking or facilitating. His offense is efficient, and reliable. In the Spurs system, Kawhi is the main scorer, but not yet a ball demander. They still leave important possessions up to teamwork rather than hero ball. Kawhi is also consistent, but rarely has extreme scoring outbursts. He’s found himself a medium volume, high efficiency role. Usually, superstars have higher usage than Kawhi does, and more total points scored.


Play-Making: Leonard is not a great passer. Or at least, he is not an effective passer. He has very low assist numbers for someone trying to be known as an all-around superstar. He also isn’t great at making shots for himself, unless it’s from the post. He doesn’t have exceptional speed, quickness, or power and because of this, he isn’t able to get himself open as well as other top players. His lack of ability or tendency to involve the rest of the team consistently really hurts his argument for being a superstar.

Heroics: In close games, the Spurs don’t usually defer to Kawhi as a go-to, instant offense option. Part of this is just the system that the Spurs use, by sticking with team play instead of relying on one player. Because of this, Kawhi can’t be hated on for lack of heroism since he isn’t given the opportunity. Clearly, this tactic is working quite well for timeless San Antonio.

Verdict: Kawhi is an amazing player. However, calling him a superstar at this moment just doesn’t seem fitting. Without question, he’ll be one in the near future, but that time is not now. He’s still a defensive demon and great on offense. Over the next year, his offense will get better and hopefully evolve into something to watch for every night. Calling Kawhi a superstar now isn’t accurate, but give it time. It’s a matter of months until this will change and he will be a top 5 player and a superstar without question.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron is a staff writer and the Co-Founder of NBALEAD. He has been following the NBA for over 15 years. Graduated from Purdue University.

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