Kawhi Leonard was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice – in 2015 and 2016. Since then, he became a dominant force in offense too.
The Klaw himself admits that the change of his role on a team had an impact on his defense. Being the first option in offense takes more energy which he was using when guarding the opposition.
Now Leonard is focused more on team defense and reading the game. Per Michael Pina of SB Nation:
“I never even think of stuff like that,” Leonard said when asked if he could describe his own evolution as a defender over the past half decade. Then he thought about it for a moment. “[It’s] being smarter, knowing the offense a lot better, you know, just trying to be a better overall team player, team defensive player.”
When I followed up by asking if he was at the same defensive level now as he used to be, Leonard was blunt. “I mean, no. That was my job back then. I wasn’t getting the ball as often and my hat had to hang on being the best defensive player. Can’t do that now. It’s too much energy on the floor.”