The Case For — Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard
There’s always debate about players and never is that debate greater in fantasy than when discussing rankings. I recently released¬†the first Red Rock 150, and got a bit of feedback about a few of the players and where I had positioned them. So that gave me an idea and The Case For was born.

As is fairly obvious from the title of the series, what I’ll be doing in these pieces is putting forward the case for why a certain player will be able to exceed expectations next season in fantasy. To see the other articles in the series, click here.

After two sub-par NBA Finals games, Kawhi Leonard has turned it on in these last two games. He’s averaged 24.5 points, 2.0 three-pointers, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.5 assists and 2.5 blocks in those games and is one of the favourites for the Finals MVP if the Spurs can close out the series.

But when I released the Red Rock 150 and had Leonard ranked at 18, it seemed not too many readers agreed with me. The consensus was that I had him too high — that he wouldn’t go until the fourth round. And that is craziness to me.

Last season, Leonard had an ADP of 50 on ESPN and finished the season as the 15th ranked player, despite playing less than 30 minutes a game. Now, that ranking is a per-game ranking, but even if we use totals, Leonard ranked 29th in nine category leagues. A downside of his game is his ability to stay healthy, missing 16 games with a broken hand this season and never once topping 70 games in his three year NBA career.

But everything else is just superb. As a small forward, his ability to get you rebounds, steals and blocks is phenomenal and if this recent scoring explosion is any indication of what we can expect next season, his game will shoot through the roof.

Let’s take a look at his numbers.

12.8 ppg, 1.1 3Pt, 6.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.8 bpg, 52.2 FG%, 80.2 FT%, 1.2 tpg

I agree, on first glance, there is nothing mind blowing there. But, the devil is in the detail and the fact that Leonard helps you in basically every category is why he is fantasy gold.

Let’s now take a look at his numbers after returning from a broken hand on February 26th.

14.7 ppg, 1.4 3Pt, 6.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.2 bpg, 53.1 FG%, 86.2 FT%, 1.3 tpg

The only category that was worse than his season averages where his turnovers and only marginally. In those 25 games, Leonard was the seventh best fantasy player in the NBA, ahead of guys like Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Joakim Noah, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson and Paul George. He had multiple blocks in nine of those games and multiple steals in 15 of them. Those sort of numbers are as rare as hen’s teeth.

The future of Spurs’ legend Tim Duncan is up in the air at the time of writing this and I think if Duncan does decide to bow out after this Finals campaign, Leonard role offensively will begin to grow. He was a very good post player in college, but with The Big Fundamental owning the paint in San Antonio, his opportunities have been limited. If he can add more scoring to his game, the top 10 is definitely within reach. If everyone’s feedback of him going in the 30’s is accurate, I’ll happy snap him up in the 20’s and hopefully have a budding elite player on my hands.

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