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.

 

Tags: George Hill Gregg Popovich Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs

  • https://twitter.com/#!/Msquared122 Mike

    The trade was very bitter-sweat for me. I looked at Leonard coming out of a college as a Raw, Younger version of Gerald Wallace, and was actually the guy I most wanted in the draft. (Realistically wanted. Everyone like Kyrie and Williams, but that just wasn’t possible.)

    When we drafted him, I was extremely stoked. To me, he would be the future of our franchise at the PF position. He’s currently more of a SF with the ability to play PF, but the same could be said for Wallace, who is a very effective option at PF.

    In my mind, if the Pacers signed a PF (as they did in David West), Leonard would make a great play at SF coming off the bench next to Price, Rush, Hansbrough and Foster.

    If we hadn’t traded for Hill, I’m guessing the trade for Mayo would go through since we wouldn’t have needed to include Rush. Even if that hadn’t of happened, Crawford probably would of been more inclined to sign if Hill wasn’t here.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Hill and what he brings, and I’m glad he’s on the team, but I really think Kawhi is going to develop into a stud defensive player in this league, at a position that will need depth for the Pacers in a few years when West leaves.

  • Pervis

    Crawford accepted essentially the same deal from Portland as he was offered here. He wasn’t interested in playing in Indiana when he could play closer to his home which is near Seattle.

  • Sam

    We need to win now. Hill gives us the best chance to do so.

    That simple.

    Good move Larry.

  • Tenacious D.

    Wages of Wins said the Spurs got the better end of the deal back in June.

    “There were a lot of second round steals this year, but to me, the team that had no business getting what it got was the San Antonio Spurs. In exchange for George Hill – an average guard still on his rookie contract – the Spurs got Kawhi Leonard, who posted a PAWS/40 of 13.02, which was good enough for 4th amongst all drafted players.”

    http://wagesofwins.com/2011/06/26/quick-takes-2011-nba-draft-winners-and-losers/

    Leonard will likely be the better player over the long run, but George will likely be better the next few years.