Kawhi Leonard's defensive talent is a well established fact. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year locks down players at multiple positions for the San Antonio Spurs in every game and has emerged as the clear successor to Tim Duncan as the unassuming face of the franchise.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
If you haven't yet, though, then it's probably time to acknowledge that Leonard is also a burgeoning star at the offensive end. He reached new heights from the perimeter in San Antonio's comfortable 103-83 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night, scoring a game-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 7-of-9 from beyond the arc. Take a look at his terrific shooting night in this clip:
The seven three pointers marked a career-high for Leonard, who had previously reached six last April and five in a November 25 matchup with the Dallas Mavericks. He's only getting better — Kawhi entered Thursday night's visit to the Memphis Grizzlies averaging a career-best 21.7 ppg on 50.5 percent shooting from the field and 46.4 percent from beyond the arc, which would be his best showing for a full season by a whopping 8.5 percent.
Leonard isn't the sort of scorer who's going to break opponents down off the dribble for a whole night, but his skills are growing. His shooting is particularly important given both the Spurs' need to space the floor in their big lineups and the offseason loss of new Sacramento King Marco Belinelli, who had several game-changing performances during the last few playoff runs.
If Leonard keeps up his shooting (and there's little reason to think he won't), he'll be looking at a shoo-in All-Star spot (that he'll probably get anyway), a potential All-NBA First Team berth, and perhaps even MVP consideration. Start thinking of him as a superstar, because he's now the biggest reason why the Spurs look like the Warriors' most serious competition for the conference title by a considerable margin.
- - - - - - -