Making sense of Kawhi Leonard
By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network.com) - I try not to typecast myself but when you write about fantasy five days a week, you tend to fall into old habits.
The majority of my columns fall into five different categories: top-ten lists, players who are underachieving, players who are overachieving, injuries and DeMarcus Cousins.
So what is this one going to be?
That's for Kawhi Leonard to decide. Right now, it seems like the Spurs forward is stuck in neutral.
Leonard's 2013-14 stats are almost identical to the ones he posted last season. Have a look.
12-13: 11.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.6 bpg, 1.7 spg
13-14: 11.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.6 bpg, 1.7 spg
On the one hand, you have to admire Leonard's consistency. But at the same time, it concerns me that Leonard hasn't made any noticeable improvements.
Leonard seemed destined for stardom after his dominating performance in last year's NBA Finals (14.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.0 spg). With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili approaching the end of their careers, the stage was set for the 22- year-old to become the Spurs' next superstar.
But that simply hasn't happened. The Spurs have 22 games left on their schedule and we're still waiting for Leonard to take the reigns.
To be fair, Leonard hasn't had the best luck this season. He broke his hand in late January, an injury that cost him nearly a month of games. Manu Ginobili (strained hamstring) and Danny Green (broken hand) went down around the same time, representing a huge missed opportunity for Leonard's fantasy owners.
Marco Belinelli's emergence (44.6 percent on three-pointers this season), though a pleasant surprise to Spurs fans, hasn't done anything to boost Leonard's value at the wing. If anything, it's made Leonard less of an asset.
Still, the biggest roadblock in Leonard's way might be his own head coach. Instead of earning more playing time after his productive sophomore season (31.2 mpg), Leonard has actually had his minutes cut back in 2013-14 (28.7 mpg).
It's difficult to make headway in fantasy when you're ranked 23rd at your position in minutes played. DeMarre Carroll, Wilson Chandler, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and P.J. Tucker are just a few of the small forwards logging more playing time than Leonard this season.
That's inexplicable. But then again, Gregg Popovich has never shied away from his reputation as a fantasy villain.
Portland, for example, has four players ranked in the top-25 in minutes played. No one on the Spurs is even in the top-70. With only one Spur averaging more than 30 minutes per game (Tony Parker at 30.8), it's fair to wonder if any San Antonio player is capable of having lasting success in fantasy.
Pinning this all on Popovich would be an easy solution. But perhaps it's time we acknowledge that Leonard just isn't a big-time scorer. Even during his best college season at San Diego State, Leonard averaged a mere 15.5 ppg on 44.4 percent shooting.
Acceptance is the key to understanding. Leonard may not be a scorer but he can still be plenty valuable to fantasy owners. Few forwards have shown the versatility that he displays night in and night out.
Take Tuesday's game in Cleveland, for example. Leonard didn't score 61 points like LeBron did earlier this week but he was able to rack up 18 points, five rebounds, three blocks and four steals. That's a complete performance and he did it in just 26 minutes. It takes incredible efficiency to be that productive in such a short amount of time.
Going in neutral is better than reverse. I guess we'll have to take Leonard as he is for now.
And don't worry. That DeMarcus Cousins column is coming.
03/05 17:57:05 ET