Next, we're looking at Kawhi Leonard, a 6'7" small forward out of San Diego State. Leonard, an intriguing athlete who sprung onto the scene for the 2-seeded Aztecs in the NCAA tournament, averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds in his sophomore year with the team.
See what I have to say about Leonard after the jump!
Draft Projection: Late lottery
- Freak athlete with impressive wingspan and huge hands
- Elite rebounder from the wing position
- Plays hardest on every play
- Potential to be stellar defender
- Much improved offensively over the last year
- Great teammate
- Doesn't move well laterally
- Not a great jump shooter
- Somewhat of a tweener
- If he were two inches taller, he'd likely be a top five pick
While the trade of Shane Battier to the Grizzlies helped propel the Rockets to second half success because it injected offense into the starting lineup and shortened the rotations, it became clear as the season went along that the team was in serious need of at least one more solid wing defender. While Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger have improved somewhat defensively since joining the team, neither is capable of slowing down top scorers in the league and Courtney Lee can't guard everyone.
Leonard, though not a "lock-down" defender at this point, already has solid defensive skills and has the potential to be as nearly as good as anyone in the league defensively with some work. He's extremely athletic, runs like a gazelle, and has an impressive wingspan. If he can work with a coach on harnessing his athletic ability to its fullest potential, he could become the kind of defender that can transform a defense.
Apart from Leonard's defensive potential, it is his rebounding from the forward position that will likely be his calling card, much like Gerald Wallace's rebounding skills. Despite playing on the wing, Leonard is capable of securing 10-15 rebounds on any given night as he combines his athleticism with monstrous hands to rebound the ball.
Offensively, Leonard is still a work in progress but flashed some impressive moves as the season progressed this year. He's an excellent slasher, can work in transition, and showed off a much-improved jump shot late in the season. He was a well-kept secret for a while, his emergence as well as San Diego State's strong play has made him a likely lottery pick. If he is available when the Rockets are picking, the Rockets have to consider him as he has nearly as much potential as any wing in this draft class.
NBA Comparison: Gerald Wallace or Shawn Marion