Kawhi Leonard is always looked up to as a two-way superstar, but this season is proving that he is also an all-around regular season MVP type of player. The Klaw’s season is really under-appreciated, while playing for the Clippers in the “bright lights” of Los Angeles.
Kawhi Leonard is leading the Los Angeles Clippers with his great all-around skills. Doc Rivers’ team is the third best in the West having 37 wins in 55 games. They are 1 game behind the Denver Nuggets (38-17) and 5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers (41-12). Leonard is a great leader, especially in the playoff stage, but the Clippers seemed to unlock an underrated quality of his and that’s his play-making.
Kawhi the play-maker
Kawhi Leonard was asked to do different things in Toronto last season with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet running the show from the point guard position. Only 15.9% of his plays per game contributed in assisting his teammates in the regular season, while in the playoffs his assist% went up to 18.9%. Also, only 12.2% of his possessions ended up in an assist
This year, Kawhi is showcasing his creativity, playing along with a group that doesn’t include any clear-cut point-guards and playmakers for the first time in his career. On the contrary, the Clips’ roster has many capable scorers. Namely, Paul George, Lou Williams and Montrelz Harrell are averaging over 18 points per contest. Furthermore, the newly acquired Marcus Morris and Landry Shamet are also in double- digit figures per game.
Kawhi is averaging a career-high 5.3 assists in 42 games scoring about 27.1 points and grabbing 7.5 rebounds per contest. He is shooting 46.3% in FG%, while attempting 5.7 threes per game on a 37.4% clip. Furthermore, he is getting to the free throw line about 7 times per contest averaging about 90% this season.
He is responsible for the 32% of his team assists with Clippers averaging about 24. He is getting more involved in the creative production of his team having a career best in assist% (27.3%). Moreover, he is averaging a slightly better as/to ratio (1.73) improving also his assist ratio (16.7). Leonard’s usage in different layers of the Clippers’ offense, along with the injuries on vital pieces of their roster, resulted in his highest usage rating of his career. In particular, about 33% of his team’s plays are “getting used” by the MVP of the All-Star Game.
The perimeter reinforcement and the MVP-type play of Leonard
When Kawhi is in the paint, the opponents are trying to double-team to prevent him from scoring. The last year finals MVP is taking advantage of the situation by showing his court-vision. He is opening the court with his ability to gravitate the defense to his presence creating easy open shots for his teammates.
The Reggie Jackson reportedly acquisition was made by the Clippers in order to enhance their point guard rotation. Jackson returned to the Pistons lineup in 22nd of January playing in 12 games, before Detroit bought-out the rest of his 15 million contract. In those 12 games, Jackson averaged 5.5 assists in 29 minutes per contest.
On the other hand, the starting point-guard Patrick Beverley is averaging about 4 assists in 28 minutes per game this season. With Paul George being out, the Clippers will need every piece of their roster to keep their composure and perform in the highest level.
On the top of that, the “Klaw” is having already an MVP-type of season until now, but the load management narrative clamped his hopes of getting a serious consideration for the award. On the other hand, if Leonard performs in this level in the playoffs and his teammates recover from their sustained injuries, then maybe the Doc Rivers’ team can go all the way to the first title of the Clippers’ franchise.
Stats from NBA.com