With all the shining points in Leonard’s career so far, there are still some glaring weaknesses that could affect his legacy and his placement in the All Time list. We will be taking a look at some of his struggles he met in his 9 year career.
His “betrayal”– The Spurs put Leonard in high regard as the “next star” of te franchise that they traded their team favorite and perennial 6th man George Hill for him. He was still a a project but under the tutelage of the whole Spurs organization- from legendary coach Gregg Poppovich to the respectable RC Buford that transformed Leonard into the MVP calibre player post-Duncan. Then his horrible injury happened when Zaza reportedly put his foot in before Leonard made a jumper causing him a playoff-ending surgery. In the following season, after being declared good by doctors, it was a shock that Leonard only played 9 games in the season. Whether if it was because of the people surrounding him, “injury management”, or whatever reason it may be, he should have atleast been frank enough to tell what he feels and what he wants. David Robinson approached him but to no avail, Pop tried to reach out but the atmosphere wasn’t really likable. Hence, he suddenly demanded a trade to Toronto. The rest is history but he left a bitter taste and relationship in San Antonio.
Ball stopper– There are plenty of highlights of Kawhi driving or turning around and making a midrange fade away. As much as we want to see his scoring prowess, he tends to be a ball stopper. When he gets the ball, it is most likely he goes iso or goes to the post, making his teammates useless. Although I have seen the slow and steady improvement of Leonard’s passing game, but once playoffs begin (assuming the season is back) defenses tend to be a bit tighter than the regular season. It does not help also that PG13 is also a ball stopper relying on his isolation dribble moves. Kawhi has been showing flashes of pasing greatness ever since last year’s playoffs and I hope what he has shown this year will only be a sign of his improved playmaking ability in the future. Point Klaw? Doesn’t it sound dangerous?
Load Management kingpin– I think this is the only thing hindering Kawhi from winning this year’s MVP and maybe in the coming years. His career has been load managed- the most games he played in a season is only 74. We know Kawhi’s main goal is to win the chip. However, we look at the greats that have been winners – MJ had 6 rings but his individual accolades back up his die hard passion and dominance in the 90’s. Karl Malone also transformed his game so that he an still play 82 games in his advanced age. Kobe played his heart out for the 20 years he had resulting in an MVP nod. For Leonard’s case, people might not put him in high regard as an All-time great because of the less games he is playing and thus affecting his cause for individual awards such as the MVP. I think Leonard initiated this whole “load management” with the Clips and the league is following after. Leonard’s tendency of playing passive in the regular season could inevitable affect his bearing among the plethora of the league’s greats both past and present.