Player Feature: Kawhi Leonard

Full Name: Kawhi Anthony Leonard 

Birthdate: June 29, 1991

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California 

Current team: Los Angeles Clippers

Position: Small forward

Years active: 2011 – present

Key statistics

  • Known for his ball-hawking skills
  • A physical marvel with 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan
  • Has won both Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year
  • With six straight 30-point performance games
  • Won the semifinals against Philadelphia 76ers with a 4.2-second buzzer-beater
  • Scored 732 points and became the 3rd best scoring NBA player in history

Kawhi Leonard earned his moniker the “Claw” (or “Klaw” to denote the first letter of his name) because of his ball-hawking skills.

Sports Illustrated lauded Leonard’s strong work ethics as well as “physical marvel” with his 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan. All the more, he knows how to use this to his advantage for defensive and rebounding purposes. Screening and eluding him on the court would be difficult.

One weakness of Leonard, however, was his weak offensive capabilities during his first few seasons with San Antonio Spurs. Another concern was his shooting skills, especially outside. And which he addressed by training off-season with his former San Diego State University’s strength and conditioning coach, Randy Shelton.

Anything he knows about basketball he was able to demonstrate throughout his seven-season stint with the Spurs. In 2014, he brought an NBA championship and named the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was technically the third youngest NBA player to win the said award; Magic Johnson held the first two positions. 

Leonard was also the 2014-2015 season’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was the third player to win both Finals MVP and this title, next to Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In the next three seasons, he set new records including back-to-back Defensive of the Year award, six straight 30-point performance games, Player of the Week for the fourth time, All-NBA First Team inclusion for two years straight, All-Defensive Team First Team award for three consecutive seasons, and career-high points game after game.

The 2017-2018 season was a controversial year for Leonard’s career. He only played 27 games due to a series of injuries (right quadriceps and left shoulder). Leonard was ruled out to pursue a right quadriceps tendinopathy rehabilitation procedure. 

The Spurs medical staff, on the other hand, gave him clearance to play. Leonard sought a second opinion, and the fallout among his management, teammates and him ensued. A players-only meeting was held in March, his teammates entreating him to start playing for the team. Leonard chose not to play any more game during the season.

In 2018-2019, Leonard was traded as per his request and became the key player of the Toronto Raptors. He led the team to its first-ever NBA championship with a 4.2-second buzzer-beater show–the first in NBA history. The small forward was also named the Finals MVP.

During the playoffs, he scored 732 points and became the third best-scoring player throughout NBA history. 

To date, Leonard has played 467 games with an average 30.8 minutes per game and 17.7 points per game. About 111 of these games were playoffs.

On July 20, 2019, he signed with Los Angeles Clippers. 

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