A lot of things stood out in the 2013-2014 NBA Playoffs, and we’re not even talking about you, Mike Breen’s Weird Face.
They’ll be remembered as the coming out party for Mark Jackson’s upstart Golden State Warriors, who upended the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The Lakers got flattened and Dwight Howard got flushed out of the City of Angels. The Grizz took a step up, and OKC took a big step back. We saw Paul George go from boy to man, ABC, BBD, with the swish of a jumper and three big FTs. We saw Frank Vogel brain fart by removing Roy Hibbert and allowing LeBron James to win a game with a layup. And we saw a Finals Game 6 that packed a monumental Spurs collapse; a limp, pathetic white flag en masse by Heat fans; and an incredible Miami comeback capped by a Ray Allen three so deep in the corner that he coulda grabbed a Cinnabon from the concessions before coming back down to earth – BREATHE – all in one fourth quarter. Oh, and James’ dwindling horde of critics were served up another heaping helping of shutup-shuttin’-up.
Lost in all that was the emergence of one Kawhi Leonard, who showed his typical flashes throughout the playoffs but finally put it together in the Finals.
Us fantasy owners had done the Kawhi shuffle before. During his rookie year, Kawhi was on the Rodrigue Beaubois level – a dude who made a habit of racking up a few big games in a row before laying a few big poopy games on the court and disappearing to his respective bench. We picked these guys up because that big breakout seemed imminent, and we wanted to be smarter than everyone else, and then it became obvious that the cake just wasn’t ready yet.
In the Finals, however, Leonard – a hard-nosed role-ish type player with superstar upside – had that look and feel about him. I saw his ilk many years ago, when the 2000-2001 76ers made a run to the Finals. In those rare times when guys like Tyrone Hill or Eric Snow or George Lynch were asked to contribute on the offensive side, they would step up and do so, and despite their awkward, machine-like drives to the basket, somehow they scored. And somehow the Sixers pulled it out. And somehow these guys had stat lines with 8-9 boards, a few steals and a block or two to go along with double-digit points.
That’s Kawhi Leonard, only with a lot more scoring punch.
Look, I’ll let the other fantasy writers gush and goo about Leonard as a breakout player for 2013-2014. Could happen, but that’s not the deal here.
As the name of this department suggests, we’re all about boards and blocks. And if boards and blocks are two minerals essential to a healthy diet, then Kawhi Leonard is a multi-vitamin who will give you those two and a whole lot more.
He pulled down 9 rpg in the playoffs, and 11 per in the Finals (!!). If he gives you above 8 rpg from the SG/SF slot this season, that’s pretty sweet. He will get you a couple steals a game and might get you a block every other game just through pure hustle.
The most telling stat to me was his FG percentage, which was in the mid-50s. If your league counts that, the benefits are obvious. If it doesn’t, that’s still an indicator of a special player.
Some are seeing him as a 20 ppg guy but I think he maxes out at 16, at least this year. To me he’s left the Beaubois level in the dust and is at least comparable to Andre Iguodala, only smoother and with more room to change and improve.
The hype-o-meter is churning for Kawhi, which has him climbing most mock draft boards. I say if you really want him, get him in the third round.