Kawhi Leonard Is Even More Explosive Than the Spurs Expected
Whenever a team makes a trade, its fans pick sides. Some like the incoming player; some prefer the guy who was sent packing. The Jerryd Bayless for Brandon Rush trade, for example, was extremely divisive in Indiana. Some like Bayless’ potential and youth. Others scoffed at a seemingly cocky attitude displayed by the tweener combo guard and preferred the fundamentally soundness of the collegiate champion Rush who spent three years at the University of Kansas.
Ultimately, the debate was largely meaningless. Rush has proved to be the better pro so far while Bayless has bounced around three different teams in four seasons. But neither has been a difference maker in this league.
Oddly enough, however, the draft day trade of the Spurs George Hill to Indiana for San Diego State draft pick Kawhi Leonard has been almost universally praised by Pacers fans. In fact, I haven’t heard a single person — Indiana supporter or not — claim that Larry Bird made a bad decision.
As we saw in the Rush/Bayless debate, people’s opinions don’t matter. But so far,
future U.S. President San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich likes what he sees in Kawhi Leonard. (via Real GM)
Though coach Gregg Popovich has sought to tamp down expectations for Leonard, the Spurs clearly did not part with a key rotation piece like Hill to bring in a player they did not think could contribute soon.
“Kawhi is what we expected, in that we knew he was a hard worker; that he was a committed player; that he responded well defensively, and rebounding-wise,” Popovich said. “Already he’s a little more explosive than we expected — the stops and starts, that sort of thing.”
Even without the benefit of summer league, offseason workouts with the Spurs’ player development coaches or even a full training camp, Leonard — 6-foot-7 with catcher’s mitt hands — can be expected to quickly work his way into the team’s muddled small-forward mix.
Eventually, either George or Kawhi may emerge as the clearly superior NBA player. Or not. But for now, it’s nice to see that both teams are happy with their guy.