14 points of Breaking down the Best NBA Players – Kawhi Leonard

Let me lead by saying this has been a real challenge. First of all trying to establish how to break down an NBA player. Then locking in and doing the work, as objectively as possible measuring the players against each other and the NBA respectively. This whole thing started with an argument on Twitter with loads of people weighing in on “who is the best NBA player right now”. The mutual consensus was that LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard were the four best. And those are the players I have broken down into 14 different categories.
To make sure as many as possible agree on the way I have done this, over 500 people participated in a poll on Twitter voting “how to emphasise offence vs defence”. Over 70% said a 60/40 split in favour of offence was the way to go. So thats what I have I done. Then to make sure to cover every angle, I have added a 3rd category with four points, “the Extras”. Hope you enjoy the read.

– Basket Regards. Magnus Barstad (follow me on Twitter @MagnusBarstad)


14 points of breaking down the Klaw, Kawhi Leonard



  1. Long distance & FTs (3s and long 2s)
    Kawhi has taken huge steps shooting the rock from distance, closing in on being a 40% shooter. His long midrange is one of his weapons at this stage. Also great from the line at 88% this season.
  2. Close to the basket
    Has gone from being a defensive specialist to Spurs go to scorer. Developed a very strong fade away shot that is difficult to stop. Good at finding driving angles and getting to his spot. Can still do more in terms of finishing at the rim with his physique.
  3. Assist
    Kawhi plays in the Spurs offense where rarely one player gets big assist numbers over time. He is an OK passer of the ball and moves it well within the system. 3.5 APG last season, which was stepped up too 4.6 when he had the ball more in the Playoffs.
  4. Controlling the game
    Offensively he can take over games. Has the ability to get hot and score almost at will. Still, the Spurs system is designed to control the game as a unit which makes it a bit difficult to say “how well” Kawhi is controlling it at times. At this stage of his career he is a constant threat and demands the attention from the other teams best defender, if not a double team.
  5. Unstoppable move(s)
    Posting up, getting to the basket or fading away for the pull up jumper. The great form and stability in his shot demands the defenders best effort to stop it. Which he can use to get by.
  6. His ability to handle pressure and double teams
    Cold as ice. Great ability to handle pressure. Does not get affected at all it seems. One of his great strengths.

Offence total: 46/60

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  1. Man to man guarding
    An absolute monster in man to man guarding. Shuts down the other teams best wing player or in some cases point guard. Footwork, upper body strength and amazing hands. One of the best man to man defenders of all times.
  2. Flexibility and switching
    Can hang with anyone. Almost the perfect physique for a defender at 6’6” 240lbs. He has an amazing 7’3” wingspan, which is the biggest increase from height to wingspan of any active NBA player. Incredibly smart and will position his body perfect to read any type of play or player.
  3. Defensive leadership
    A force on the defensive end. Stays vocal and in constant movement. Rotates to perfection within the system. Plays so, so hard and leads by example.
  4. Protecting the paint or the perimeter
    Averages 0.7 blocks per game and 1.8 steals per game. Plays as close to perfect defence on any possession. His pace, IQ and footwork allows to cover a lot of ground and he can get paint to the perimeter in no time. Very, very rarely you will see a player driving successfully on Kawhi Leonard.

 Defence total 40/40

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  1. Teammate
    Low key personality but suits his coach and his team to a tee. He has your back on the court no matter what. Not the most vocal or loud player by any sense, but a guy anyone would want on their team.
  2. Leader
    Has taken over a more of the leadership role after Tim Duncan retired a year ago. Huge shoes to fill, but Kawhi has learned from the best and he does it in somewhat the same fashion as the great TD. Stays quiet, puts in the work and is starting to earn the respect that Duncan had. If he looks at you with the stink eye, you best get in line son.
    And again, he plays so, so hard on both ends.
  3. Rebounding
    Kawhi is a good rebounder. But we need consider the way he guards the best wing players, trying to keep them from entering the paint. This will have Kawhi away from a lot of the rebounding possessions. When he gets in there his strength, positioning and long arms is a huge edge. A 6.2 RPG on his career, Leonard went up to 7.8 RPG when his number was called in the playoffs.
  4. X-Factor
    His unique ability to close down defenders and force turnovers can dominate games as hard as any offensive skills. The Spurs lead by Kawhi can shut it down so hard and go on minute long runs without the opposition having a single shot at the basket.

 Extra total 37/40


140 points of Kawhi Leonard = 123/140



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