The NBA Draft is simply the most important time of the year for rebuilding
franchises. Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers. Whether it is the next Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, or the next Sam Bowie and Greg Oden, we are out to identify the legitimate prospects from the phony ones. Every week, we will deliver profiles of top prospects and breakdown their game. We will give you player comparisons, ratings, outside opinions on the prospects, and much more. Last we had UConn’s Kemba Walker, and next up is San Diego State University small forward Kawhi Leonard.
Ceiling: Gerald Wallace
Basement: Ronnie Brewer
Final Comparison: Luc Mbah a Moute
Ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being overseas talent and 10 being NBA Rookie of the Year)
A lot is made of Leonard’s athleticism in games because most of his highlights are dunks and breakaways, but he is not an elite athlete. Leonard is more of a fluid player with quality athleticism and can in the moment out work another, more athletic opponent. He is going to have highlights, he will wow fans here and there, but overall he is a very good athlete who plays with great control.
The two traits that will translate the best for Leonard in the NBA are rebounding and defending. From his position (small forward) he may be the best overall rebounder in this class, and he uses great anticipation, strong hands and a quick jump to beat the opposition. As a defender he will be able to guard multiple positions, primarily on the perimeter, and has the ability to be a true lock-down defender. Both of those traits will be combined to make Leonard a very productive player.
Today, Leonard can defend NBA wings and rebound his position as well as anyone. Other than that he will be a very limited player early in his career. Offensively he has shown vast improvement as a ball-handler, shooter and will continue to get better, but he will not make any impact as a rookie on that end of the floor. Leonard will make impacts, primarily as an energy player who excels defending either wing position.
Basically half of Leonard’s game is ready for the NBA today, and the rest will follow along shortly. His improvement from freshman to sophomore year on the offensive end was very impressive and that was only after one year in college. After a few years in the NBA all of the weaknesses that are weighing him down will be strengths. Leonard has shown flashes as a playmaker, shooter and ball-handler which will only get better in time.
It is all about the effort and time you put into your craft – if you outwork the competition you will rise above them. A hallmark of Leonard’s game is the work ethic he has. He is a true gym rat that will do anything to outwork anyone and overcome obstacles. That type of effort and desire to get better cannot be taught, it is an internal drive fueling Leonard to never be satisfied. He will never be satisfied, that is the way he is wired. He will continue to work hard and elevate his game no matter the obstacles.
Combined Score: 38 out of 50 possible points
In time Leonard could emerge as a top-flight perimeter defender in a league that is won on the perimeter. With the progressions made on offense already and still to come this could be one of the sleepers of the draft.
Best Fit: Washington Wizards
Filling the fast break with John Wall and taking pressure off the team by checking one of the opposition’s top two scorers has to make Washington the most appealing destination for Leonard. The team already has a very good young nucleus, the addition of a wing with the defensive and rebounding abilities of Leonard will only make them better. The wing is also the biggest hole on the court for Washington and with the upside of Leonard defensively it may be the only way this team can rise and compete with the new era in the Eastern Conference.
“Pretty impressive. When people see how quick he is off his feet, how big his hands are, his work ethic, they’re going to fall in love with him. We can teach him the rest of it.” – NBA scout
What do you think?
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