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  #1  
Old 05-01-12, 10:44 PM
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Article: Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard leaves draft-day peers behind

NBA: Spurs? Kawhi Leonard leaves draft-day peers behind | The Salt Lake Tribune
NBA: Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard leaves draft-day peers behind
NBA • After sliding to No. 15 pick, former San Diego State forward excels.

By Brian T. Smith

The Salt Lake Tribune
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard, left, shoots above Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

San Antonio • Draft day was supposed to be special for Kawhi Leonard.

Then he started falling.

At one point, Leonard was told he could go as high as No. 5 overall in the 2011 lottery. At worst, he’d been advised he might drop to 16.

But as players such as Brigham Young University’s Jimmer Fredette went to Sacramento at No. 10 and ex-Colorado guard Alec Burks was selected by the Jazz at No. 12, all Leonard could do was wait.

Finally, Indiana picked him at 15 last June. But the future Pacer immediately became a Spur. Leonard was unexpectedly traded for well-liked San Antonio guard George Hill, and two strong seasons at San Diego State were quickly washed away by draft-day questions about what it felt like to be an overlooked first-round ’tweener dealing with an uncomfortable situation.

“I was just happy to get picked and be on a team,” Leonard said

Nearly a year after falling, Leonard’s higher than ever.

The Spurs rookie averaged 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 64 games (39 starts) this season. He earned the trust of his teammates and the respect of hard-to-please coach Gregg Popovich. And while young athletes such as Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Fredette spent 2011-12 stuck on losing teams, Leonard’s impressive first season hasn’t stopped.

“The fit’s been great,” he said. “We won a lot of games during the regular season. We won our first playoff game. I’m just adjusting to everybody well. … Pop is a great coach and taught me a few things. It just got me better as a player.”

Leonard has exceeded initial expectations by drawing from a collection of offensive weapons. He shot 49.3 percent from the field and 37.6 percent behind the 3-point line during the regular season, while his athleticism and basketball intelligence have allowed him to overcome a slightly undersized frame.

How much trust does Popovich have in Leonard? The 2011-12 NBA Coach of the Year willingly shipped Hill to Indiana so San Antonio could acquire the Steve Fisher product. Then the ex-Aztec started Game 1 against the Jazz.

First-unit teammates Tony Parker and Danny Green raved Tuesday about Leonard’s sharp learning curve. Parker, the speedy point guard who’s seen many of Popovich’s projects come and go, believes Leonard’s sticking around.

“Pop was very high on Kawhi and thought he could be a great addition to the team and a great defender,” Parker said. “All year long he’s been playing great, adapting to the way we play and the defense that Pop wants. … It’s only his first year, so he’s only going to get better. That’s good for us.”
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  #2  
Old 05-01-12, 11:25 PM
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I always liked trading up versus trading down. I was all for the move and I liked George Hill.
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Old 05-02-12, 08:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WILLTHETHRILL View Post
I always liked trading up versus trading down. I was all for the move and I liked George Hill.
I was excited too, and I said Leonard would make a huge impact on this team before pre-season. So there!

Oh and George Hill stank in the playoffs. That's why they shipped him.
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Old 05-02-12, 09:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uwe Blab View Post
Oh and George Hill stank in the playoffs. That's why they shipped him.
Then why's Bonner still here?
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Old 05-02-12, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelWi101 View Post
Then why's Bonner still here?
Because he's 6'10" and brings defenders out to the 3pt line while being a decent defender himself. Duh.

George Hill played great but for some reason not only did his offensive play go down, his defensive play seemingly dropped off in the playoffs too.
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Old 05-02-12, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uwe Blab View Post
I was excited too, and I said Leonard would make a huge impact on this team before pre-season. So there!

Oh and George Hill stank in the playoffs. That's why they shipped him.
Yeah he did not have a good playoffs but with Manu, Neal and other guards in the mix.......when was the dude going to play this year? He is a combo guard not really a true point guard. He had some good moments here and there. The guy was involved in SA off the court too. A great guy. So I liked him on and off the court. He was a bottom of the first round guy and to get Kawhi in the exchange was awesome. Kawhi was projected to be as high as #6 by some scouts and draft gurus. They got another draft pick later on and they got the rights to Lorbek too. It was a no brainer. I hope they move Blair for a late first rounder this summer. Maybe the #23 pick or something like that.

Last edited by WILLTHETHRILL; 05-02-12 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 05-02-12, 11:05 AM
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Undersized frame? Didn't get that.
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  #8  
Old 05-02-12, 12:52 PM
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I loved this move from the beginning. We weren't in a position to pay George Hill after his rookie contract expired.
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Old 05-02-12, 05:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uwe Blab View Post
Because he's 6'10" and brings defenders out to the 3pt line while being a decent defender himself. Duh.

George Hill played great but for some reason not only did his offensive play go down, his defensive play seemingly dropped off in the playoffs too.
I canNOT believe that this post has gone hours without dozens of rebuttals (in best McEnroe voice).

Maybe because it's true, and the masses are starting to understand this. I can only hope.

Probably because the twitter feed kicked in before readers got to post 5.
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Old 05-02-12, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katyspursfan View Post
I canNOT believe that this post has gone hours without dozens of rebuttals (in best McEnroe voice).

Maybe because it's true, and the masses are starting to understand this. I can only hope.

Probably because the twitter feed kicked in before readers got to post 5.
I'm actually surprised too. I thought for sure I was baiting someone.
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Old 05-02-12, 08:54 PM
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What a beast...he didn't disappoint tongiht..
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