In three preseason contests, Kawhi Leonard averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. For a full-fledged NBA superstar, those numbers are quite pedestrian but, in the case of Leonard and his new team in the Toronto Raptors, his mere presence on the floor was cause for legitimate celebration.
Leonard, who should be in the midst of his prime at the age of 27, appeared in only nine games for the San Antonio Spurs last season as a result of extended injury issues in his right leg. While that long-term ailment can get lost in the shuffle of Leonard’s eventual trade request and the ultimate move by the Spurs to send him to Toronto, there is real mystery surrounding Leonard and the kind of player he will be when the regular season opens for the Raptors on Oct. 17.
On one hand, Leonard is a member of a short list of fully ingrained two-way superstars, as he is arguably the game’s best perimeter defender with a dynamic offensive game to boot. During his last full season in 2016-17, the former San Diego State standout exploded to the tune of 25.5 points per game with incredible efficiency (49/38/88 shooting splits) and, as a result, there was a groundswell on behalf of Leonard as an MVP candidate.
While that may seem like a lifetime ago with the ever-evolving news cycle and a very busy year for Leonard, the NBA world has the chance to see him perform as a universally recognized top-five player again in the not-so-distant future. There is, of course, some concern about Leonard’s health status and, as such, the Raptors took the cautious approach in limiting his preseason exposure. However, Leonard was able to display signs of his old self, albeit in limited duty, and it is easy to fantasize on what might transpire when and if he is able to replicate his pre-injury production.