The basketball genius of Kawhi Leonard

Photo: Twitter/Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard has dominated the first games of the series against the Philadelphia 76ers and has showed signs of greatness on both ends of the floor.

Leonard has made some excellent performances in the playoffs, but the games against the Sixers have proved why Masai Ujiri, the GM of Toronto Raptors, made the “all-in” trade with the San Antonio Spurs.

According to the official website of the NBA, the 27-year-old superstar has been averaging 40 points per game against Philadelphia so far, while shooting at 61.7% on field goal attempts and 35.3% from the three-point line.

In addition, he averaged 68.1% Effective FG% and 72.8% True Shooting Percentage against the team of Brett Brown, who was forced to make changes on Game 2 to contain the Raptors’ superstar.

Leonard has a great basketball IQ that helps him “read” the defense and play to his strengths. For instance, he was so dominant in Game 1 against 76ers that Philadelphia could not do anything to stop him.

He took advantage of all the Sixers’ defensive deficiencies. When he was in the paint, he was trying to use the mismatches in his favor and when he was on the perimeter, he was shooting in a very efficient way.

For example, when Jimmy Butler guarded him, he tried to bully his way to the rim and when Tobias Harris tried to stop him with his “length”, Kawhi used his turnaround jump-shot or step-back to score.

photo: nbcsports

The only player that was able to challenge him a bit from the Sixers roster was Ben Simmons, who has the strength and the mobility to chase him inside out (12/25 shooting when Leonard guarded by the Australian).

In the first game of the series, Leonard had a playoff career-high 45 points on an easy win for the Toronto Raptors, which had a +33.8 net rating when Kawhi was on the floor.

In the second game, he scored 35 points in a close defeat for Nick Nurse’s squad, which had a +3.7 net rating when his superstar was playing.

Furthermore, he can change the course of the game with his defense. The 27-year-old star has “great hands” that can steal the ball from any opponent, while he also has the length to change the trajectory of a shot or a pass. The “Klaw” is putting his opponents in the torture chamber and make them believe there is no way out.

photo: nbcsports

Specifically, he is holding them at 61% on the restricted area,  at 33.3% on the paint area, 22.7% from mid-range and 26.3% at the above the break three area over the last two games.

Moreover, the Raptors have a defensive rating of 95.0 points per 100 possesions when Leonard plays, a number that drops to 102.7 points per 100 possesions  when he sits on the bench.

Kawhi Leonard has returned, following a period full of drama that started from a season-ending injury that happened against the Golden State Warriors two years ago.

This season, the “Klaw” is proving once again that he is world-class two-way player in a team that contends for the title in the most talented East Conference of the last couple of years.