Leonard was again an elite performer on a per-game basis last season, averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.9 three-pointers and 1.6 steals. The dimes were particularly noteworthy, as they represented a career-high mark and supported the notion that his huge jump in the category during his first campaign with the Clippers is sustainable. Prior to joining Los Angeles, Leonard averaged a modest 2.4 assists per contest across eight campaigns, but he has buoyed that number to 5.0 across two seasons as a Clipper. The San Diego State product complemented his counting stats with excellent percentages across the board, shooting 51.2 percent from the field, 88.5 percent from the charity stripe and 39.8 percent from deep. The impressive output comes with one important caveat: Leonard simply can't be counted on to play anywhere near a full campaign. Injuries and load management cost him 20 games last season, and he has missed at least 15 games in each of his last four campaigns. Fantasy managers won't have to grapple with the risk of spending a high pick on Leonard in upcoming drafts, as it's already known that a partially torn ACL will keep him out until at least February. Some will use a late pick on the two-time NBA champion in hopes of stashing him away until the latter stages of the season, but even that is a gamble, as there is a very real possibility that Leonard -- who inked a four-year deal to return to the Clippers during the offseason -- could be handled cautiously and held out for the entire campaign.
Leonard had a strong campaign during his first year with the Clippers alongside Paul George. Leonard set career highs in scoring (27.1 points per game), free-throw efficiency (88.6 percent) and passing (4.9 assists per game) while adding 7.1 rebounds, 2.2 threes, 1.8 steals and 0.6 blocks. That resulted in selections to the All-NBA Second Team and All-Defensive Second Team. As expected, Leonard missed 15 games due to injury and load management, but he still returned first-round value on a total production basis in eight-category leagues. The Clippers got bounced earlier than expected in the postseason, blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the second round. That prompted a major change, with coach Doc Rivers getting fired. That said, Leonard's role on the team should be concrete, and fantasy managers won't have to worry about a drastic change of pace for the 29-year-old two-way star. When considering drafting Leonard, keep in mind that his load management regiment will likely cap his total production despite the elite per-game numbers. As such, a mid-to-late first-round selection is probably a reasonable draft slot for the L.A. native.
After a nine-game 2017-18 campaign that ended with a trade demand out of San Antonio, Leonard had a successful of a 2018-19 season as possible with Toronto. The Raptors won the NBA Finals, and Leonard was given his second Finals MVP trophy before the age of 28, averaging 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and a combined 3.1 steals/blocks against the Warriors. The three-time All-NBA and five-time All-Defensive selection appeared in only 60 regular-games last season -- many of his missed games being due to rest. All indications are that Leonard will continue to be rested for the remainder of his career as he deals with a quad injury that initially flared up during his final season with the Spurs. That will artificially drive his fantasy stock down compared to his talent level, but there's no reason Leonard should make it to the third round of any draft, as he's arguably the best two-way player in the NBA. It's possible pairing up with Paul George will reduce Leonard's usage, but it probably won't be enough to result in a huge drop-off in production.
Leonard's 2017-18 campaign was one of the more bizarre situations in recent memory. The 27-year-old was reported to be dealing with right quad tendinopathy and was shut down for the preseason. However, that ultimately lingered into the start of the regular season and Leonard would go on to miss the team's first 27 games. In mid-December, Leonard was finally cleared for a return and he alternated playing in games and getting nights off for rest for roughly a month. However, after playing just nine contests, Leonard was shut down indefinitely and wound up missing the last 43 games of the season. The peculiarity of the situation came when the Spurs' medical staff seemed to clear Leonard to play, while Leonard's personal medical team continued to advise him to sit out. That created tensions between himself, his teammates, his coaching staff and the fans, which eventually resulted in a relationship that was so far damaged that it was beyond repair. As a result, Leonard was traded to the Raptors this offseason, as well as Danny Green, in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. It's a strong landing spot for Leonard considering he's joining a team that finished with the best overall record in the Eastern Conference last season and is set up for another playoff run. He's got another All-Star in Kyle Lowry to be a facilitator and to help take the pressure off his back, as well as a couple of other established pieces in the frontcourt like Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. That should give Leonard every opportunity to excel and if he comes anywhere near his numbers from 2016-17, he'll be a sure-fire first-round pick in the majority of Fantasy leagues. In his last full season (74 games), Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.0 three-pointers, operating as one of the best two-way players in the league and finishing as an MVP finalist. The real mystery comes regarding his current health. Leonard's camp remains mum on any sort of update, though he did pass the physical that was necessary to complete the trade, so that in itself is encouraging. At this point, Leonard's draft position will simply be determined by whether or not Fantasy owners think he'll be healthy for the start of the season. If believed to be healthy, go ahead and select Leonard in the first or second round. If not, avoid him and someone else in the league will likely take the risk.
While coach Gregg Popovich's constant desire to rest his players looms large, Leonard is coming off a 2016-17 campaign where he played a career-high 74 games. That translated to averages of 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.0 three-pointers across 33.4 minutes, which secured Leonard a spot as a finalist for league MVP honors alongside James Harden and Russell Westbrook. He also added his second All-Star nomination and All-NBA First Team award, further boosting his resume as one of the top perennial talents in the league. Leonard has always been labeled an elite defensive presence, and that was further evidenced by his 1.8 steals per game (8th in the NBA), but his continued improvement on the offensive side of the ball was especially encouraging, with his 25.5 points and 3.5 assists per contest again marking new career highs for the 26-year-old forward. While his field goal percentage and three-point percentage did dip a bit, shooting 48.5 percent and 38 percent, respectively, that can partly be attributed to an increase in his overall number of shots taken, which can conversely be looked at as a plus for his overall scoring load. Looking forward to the 2017-18 season, the Spurs' roster isn't getting any younger and regular contributors like Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili should again see less and less minutes as the season goes along to preserve their legs for the playoffs, allowing Leonard to remain the workhorse. Rudy Gay's addition does bring another solid scorer to the forward ranks, but the fact that he's 30 years old and coming off a torn Achilles shouldn't detract from Leonard's ability to remain a top-10 pick in Fantasy leagues. Leonard himself is coming off a severely sprained ankle that he suffered during the playoffs back in May, forcing him to miss the final three games of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. He's fully expected to make a return to full strength ahead of training camp, which should allow Leonard the opportunity for a strong start to what could be another MVP caliber performance.
San Antonio brought in LaMarcus Aldridge on a max deal last summer to help take the torch from the team’s trio of aging stars (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili), but it was Leonard who stole the show and emerged as the Spurs’ alpha dog. Leonard saw his scoring average jump from 16.5 points to 21.2 points per game and shot the ball with efficiency that rivaled Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, hitting 50.6 percent of his attempts from the field, 44.3 percent of his attempts from three-point range and 87.4 percent of his tries from the charity stripe. Those numbers alone would make Leonard a pillar for any franchise, but his game-changing impact on the defensive end made him one of the league’s best all-around talents. He averaged 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks en route to claiming a second straight Defensive Player of the Year award, and for the first time in his career, a spot on the All-NBA First Team. Though he maintains a low profile off the court, Leonard has clearly arrived as a top-10 player in the NBA and should challenge for an MVP award again in 2016-17. The Spurs will have another fellow star to integrate into their system this season with Pau Gasol joining the ranks to replace the retired Duncan, but Gasol’s willingness to share the rock may only enhance Leonard’s stat lines. The 25-year-old’s dedication to developing his game has been evident throughout his career, as he’s shown improvement as a scorer in all five seasons in the league and has turned outside shooting -- one of his weaknesses coming out of San Diego State in 2010 -- into a major strength. Only coach Gregg Popovich’s tendency to rest his stars periodically over the course of the season dings Leonard’s value, but the small forward is still capable of producing enough in 65 or 70 games to delight his fantasy owners.
Leonard played in 64 games last season, hampered by a hand injury that kept him out for 10 games, along with eye problems and an ankle injury that also sidelined him. He has never played more than 66 games in a season throughout his four-year NBA career. Although nagging injuries have been a problem for Leonard, he has improved his production each season he has been in the league. Last season, he averaged 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 blocks, and 2.3 steals in 32 minutes per game. Leonard produces these numbers at a consistently efficient clip, boasting career shooting averages of 50 percent from the field, 37 percent from three, and 80 percent from the free-throw line. Being the only player on the Spurs' roster that averaged more than 30 minutes per game last season, the Defensive Player of the Year has solidified himself as the face of the future for San Antonio. His greatest value comes in nine-category leagues that factor in turnovers and percentages. Leonard's efficient play makes him an elite fantasy player despite the fact that he only has one elite categrory for fantasy production, steals. LaMarcus Aldridge will likely become the focal point of a Spurs offense that doesn't really enourage a focal point, and that could lead to everyone on the Spurs seeing fewer shots this season. The team is also so deep that they could opt to rest their players even more than usualy this season. On the rosier side of maybes, there's also a possibility that Leonard takes another step in his development on offense and has even more plays run for him this season to create a true tandem attack with Aldridge.
Kawhi Leonard, the freshly anointed Finals MVP, is entering his fourth season in the NBA. He averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.1 three-pointers in 29 minutes per game through 66 games last season. Leonard shot 52 percent from the field on 9.8 attempts and 80 percent from the line on 1.9 attempts. As Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker age, coach Gregg Popovich will begin to hand the reigns of the team over to Leonard, and Popovich has stated he will begin running offensive plays for the soft-spoken star. Leonard set career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage last season, but the real story of Leonard's season is how he played after returning from a fractured hand. In 25 games after the All-Star break, Leonard went into hyperdrive, averaging 14.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 1.4 three-pointers, including shooting a remarkable 53 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line. During that time frame, Leonard was a top-10 fantasy talent in nine-category leagues. Leonard's value depends a lot on your league format, as his ability to help in all nine categories suits rotisserie leagues more than head-to-head or points formats. Regardless of your format, Leonard is an emerging superstar, and even with Pop's minute restrictions, Leonard was able to turn in a diverse, fantasy-friendly stat line. If he can avoid the injuries that have limited him the past two seasons, he has the potential to be a top-10 fantasy stud.
Like George, Leonard's hype heading into the season stems largely from his breakout performance in the postseason. Coach Gregg Popovich entrusted Leonard with 37 minutes per game in the playoffs, and Leonard responded by averaging 13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.8 steals and 1.1 three-pointers per game, while shooting 55 percent from the field and 39 percent from downtown. These are fine numbers, but we know Popovich won't give him that many minutes in the regular season, as he likes to keep his guys rested and spread out minutes when the games don't mean as much. What Leonard brings to the table in rebounding, steals and field-goal percentage, he takes away in his complete lack of assists and his modest scoring numbers. There's a good chance he takes a big step forward this season in the counting stats, but his less than ideal playing time and deficiencies in certain categories make him a clear tier below the top guys at the position.
In Leonard, the Spurs got exactly what they thought they were getting with the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft--a starting small forward with a good motor and the ability to guard multiple positions. He might be a better real life player than a fantasy player, because the Spurs’ depth means that Leonard likely won’t see typical starters minutes. However, in the 24 games he started at forward last season, Leonard averaged a solid 9.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 52 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 81 percent from the line. Assuming he sees slightly more than the 25.7 minutes per game he averaged as a starting forward last season, and assuming he takes a leap in his second year, there is a lot of potential here. One possible area for regression is Leonard’s three-point shooting. He was never a 30 percent three-point shooter in college, so his 37.6 percent mark for the 2011-12 season was quite an improvement.
Leonard averaged a double-double to go along with 1.4 steals per game last season for San Diego St. He will provide the Spurs with some much needed youth, but he will open as the backup behind Richard Jefferson. He could provide fantasy value based on his defensive skills and his ability to rebound, but don’t expect a lot from him offensively.