Fantasy Basketball: Don't Believe The Hype On Kawhi Leonard
Don’t Believe The Hype On Kawhi Leonard
I knew the hype on Kawhi Leonard was going to be a bit overrated in fantasy this upcoming season, after he performed admirably in the playoffs, but I did not realize people think this guy is a top 30 player in fantasy, let alone, a top 15 player. I came to that realization when I was participating in an industry mock draft hosted by Zach Rewis (@BigZack44) of thefantasyfix.com. Everyone who participated in the 12 team rotisserie mock draft are well respected fantasy basketball writers and I was honored to be a part of that group. It was a slow draft and was done on a Google doc (results of mock draft). When I saw Kawhi Leonard taken with the 15 overall pick, my mind was blown. This had to be a joke right? A player that has averaged 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and 1.7 steals in the past two seasons is definitely not worth a 15th overall. Not only was it not a joke, but other people in the draft actually thought it was a great pick. This is a player I have a hard time ranking in my top 60 overall of fantasy players( I know that is shocking, but will have you convinced by the time you’re done reading this article),yet, some so called fantasy experts think he is a top 20 player. Why do they love him so much? Before I expose how flawed the thinking of Leonard as a top 20 player is, I’ll inform you on the way the Spurs function.
The Spurs are the most consistent team in the NBA as they have a winning percentage of 61% or higher in 17 straight season. That is unbelievable! They’ve been able to do that by creating a system that every player buys into. Also, it helps that they’ve had a core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker for a long time. Here is what Parker and Duncan have done recently:
Tim Duncan,in the past four seasons, has averaged as low as 28.2 minutes per game and as high as 30.1, averaged a high of 14.1 FGA (field goal attempts) and a low of 11 per game, rebounds have been right about the same with a low of 8.9 per game and a high of 9.9, same with assists, high of three per game, low of 2.3. That is four years of consistency.Tony Parker, in the past four seasons, has averaged 32 minutes per game, except last season, when he averaged 29.4 minutes, averaged as high as 20.3 points and as low as 16.7 points, while averaging about 14-15 shots per game, averaged a high of 7.7 assists and as low as 5.7. The low numbers were all a result of last season.
By looking at these player performances the past couple of years, it is hard to see Kawhi Leonard getting more playing time than his 29 minutes per game he got last season. Especially since no player on the Spurs averaged 30 minutes played per game last season. It doesn’t stop there though, we have to go back to the 2008-09 season (SIX! seasons ago) too find ANY player that played for the Spurs, to average 33 minutes or more per game for an entire season and that was none other than Tony P. There is no evidence to assume Leonard is going to play 33 minutes or more per game this upcoming season. It is wishful thinking, with no evidence to support it, too assume Leonard is even going to reach 31 minutes played per game. Thinking he is going to average more than 30 minutes played per game is bogus. Even if he does get 32-33 minutes per game, that doesn’t mean he is just going to suddenly average 18 points per game.
But Kaplan, he played so great during the playoffs and that has to translate to the regular season, right? Not a chance and that thought process is completely flawed. Most people do not even realize that Leonard put up better numbers in the 2012-13 playoffs, than he did in the playoffs this past season.
Per game averages during the playoffs:
2012-13: 36.9 minutes played, 13.5 points on 10 FGA (54.5%), nine rebounds, one assist, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.1 three pointers made.
2013-14: 32 minutes played, 14.3 points on 10.4 FGA (51%), 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.3 three pointers made.
Besides minutes played and rebounds, those numbers are practically the same. Also, realize his stats in the 2012-13 playoffs: almost 37 minutes played and nine rebounds per game, yet, he got nowhere close to those averages in the regular season last season. Instead, he averaged 29.1 minutes played, 12.8 points on 9.8 FGA (52.2%), 6.2 rebounds, two assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and one three pointer made per game last season. That is almost the exact same numbers he had in the playoffs this past season as well as what he averaged per game in the 2012-13 season. That evidence alone could prove that Leonard is not going produce much more on a per game basis this upcoming season, than last season, but I’m just getting started on proving how overrated this guy truly is.
Let me nip this in the butt right meow: His stellar free throw percentage of 80%, is a complete mirage because he averaged 1.9 FTA per game. Guess how many NBA players averaged more than 1.9 free throw attempts per game? If you guessed 163 you would be correct (and likely a cheater that looked it up). He shot such a low percentage of free throws that his 80% average barely even makes an impact on fantasy teams. Speaking of rankings, here is where some of his other numbers ranked on a per game basis this past season: 105 in points, 66 in rebounds,140 in assists, tied for ninth in steals, 117 with one three pointer made. Do people realize how bad that is (besides the steals per game)? They want to make an argument for him to be a top 30 players, yet, he is not even in the top 60 in rebounds and does not even rank in the top 100 in points, assists, or three pointers made. That is exactly why I do not think he is a top 60 player. Not only that, but there are plenty of players that are going to be drafted in rounds seven through 10, that will blow Leonards points/rebounds per game average out of the water. Guys like Kenneth Faried, Jonas Valanciunas, Carlos Boozer, Omer Asik, and Zach Randolph, just to name a few. Before you scoff at those names I just listed, realize all of those players will average a lot more rebounds per game, almost all of them will average more points per game as well, they will all have quality field goal percentages, and they can’t do any worse than Kawhi’s 1.9 assist per game. Still think he is a top 60 fantasy player? What about Small Forwards? Here are the the Small forwards I’d rather own over Leonard (in no particular order, also probably forgetting a few names that qualify at SF)
Josh Smith (in a total points league, not roto)
Leonard reminds of a younger version of Trevor Ariza, except Ariza out produced Leonard in fantasy last season and will no doubt do it again this season with the Houston Rockerts. Ariza averaged 14.4 points (11.1 FGA for 45.6%), 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steal, 0.3 blocks, 2.3 three pointers made (which will likely go down, but that is still double the amount that Leonard made per game). So ask yourself this, which round would you take Ariza? sixth, seventh, maybe 8th round if he fell that far. I’d probably take him in the sixth or seventh round, depending on how badly I needed a small forward, but I would definitely take him before Leonard. I hope you’re finally starting to realize how overrated Leonard really is.
You know what, lets play the hypothetical game here. What would Leonard's averages be if he played 36 minutes per game this season (which would literally be a miracle)? Well, his averages per 36 minutes last season looked like this: 15.8 points on 12.1 FGA (52.2 FG%), 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 1.3 three pointers made. That is best case scenario and he still does not deserve to be drafted in the first three rounds of draft if he did average that. That is purely hypothetical because he has got no chance to play 36 minutes per game and will be lucky to even get 30 minutes per game. That is just how the Spurs operate.
There is no other way to put it, Kawhi Leonard does not deserve to be drafted in the first four rounds of draft and should not even be ranked as a top 60 player. Anyone that makes the argument that he deserves to be taken in the first three rounds of a draft has lost their mind. I’m not going to sugar coat it folks. He is a great player in real life, but is so overrated in fantasy. I honestly have no clue how a player can be considered in the top 36 overall in fantasy when he is not even in the top 100 in two out of the three main categories (points/assists) and will not crack the top 60 in rebounds. I didn’t even mention how he could be considered injury prone as he played in 66 games last season and only played in 58 games the season before. If, after all of what you just read, you still believe Leonard is a top 36 player in fantasy this season, than do two things for me: First, explain why he is a top 36 (or top 50) player in fantasy. Second, put your money where your mouth is, name the stakes, name the scoring system, because I want to be in a fantasy league with you, because I will dominate that league. I have not gotten ticked off about a players fantasy value in a long time, but I couldn’t take it anymore when I heard so called “fantasy basketball experts” proclaim this guy as a fantasy stud or a even top 36 player in fantasy. It is just not true and anyone that tells you otherwise, does not know what it takes it win a fantasy league. Do not believe the Leonard hype. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
Would love to hear your comments about this or any fantasy basketball topic, so holler at me on twitter @datrueguru.
This blows my mind. The density in this article is crazy. First off, Leonard is criminally under rated every season - over the last 3 months of last season he was in the top 8 while never having a play called for him. Think about that. Secondly, to give Lance Stephenson love over him is absurd on the best of days - I mean, here is a guy that was ranked over 100 for his "break-out" season, and has now gone to a team where the point guard (Kemba) handles the ball more than any other in the league, which will nullify Lance's one nice thing in assists... OMG plus his turnovers are atrocious. Your logic good sir, hurts my brain and I only hope that people I am in leagues with read this drivel, but in to it and let me repeat as champion.
Leonard Owner going for the 3peat!
I think you make some very good points in your article, Leonard as of now is not a superstar and the Spurs system will likely make sure it stays that way. However Leonards' strengths are not about being top 25 in any 1 category, but instead contributing across the board, especially in deeper leagues. I have had him in a keeper league for a couple years now and look forward to what he will become, but I still see him as very comparable to Batum who I also own, and Leonard blows Batum out of the water in Steals, TOs and FG%. The FG% will indeed come down as the Spurs lean on him more over the years. Either way though, easily a top 50 fantasy player in most formats.
The guy isn't great anywhere, but good everywhere. 15th in per game average ranks and 27th in end of year ranks tells me that it is YOU, sir, that does not know what it takes to win a league.
While I understand some of your points, I think you focused on his negative aspects so much that you didn't even consider the thought process of many -- including the respectable and more proven EXPERTS that you even said you were honored to be a part of -- who consider him a 2nd or 3rd round option. Here are some points for you to consider. 1. His FG%, Rebounding, Blocks and TOs are superb for his POSITION, which is SG/SF. One of the fallacies in your article is to compare his rebounding stats to other big men. In fantasy basketball, it is very much advantageous to look for stats that are not stereotypically provided by a position, e.g. assists/steals from a big, or blocks/rebounds from a guard. It is illogical to say that "ugh Marc Gasol only gives 3.5 assists but guys like Hayward or Teague in later rounds can give me so much more." Comparisons should be against players of the same position. Tell me how many SG-eligible players average 52% FG, 0.8 Blocks, or 1.2 TOs? Drafting a typical SG will sink you in these categories but Kawhi actually provides positive value, which is very underrated but really effective. He's a Batum-type versatile player whose main strength, instead of assists, are these underrated stats for a wing-man. 2. Upside. HUGE upside. While he is working in a team-oriented Spurs, all signs EXPLICITLY indicate that he will have a higher usage rate next season. The entire team already acknowledges that Kawhi is their future, Coach Pop already said in a press conf that he will draw up more plays for him in the future. It has been evident that the modern Spurs are relying less on their vets, and another year older for the Spurs means transitioning the responsibility to younger stars -- something they did to Tony Parker and will do to Kawhi. Kawhi could very much reach 16 points. While his FG% could lower to around 0.50, his overall volume increase should make his % strengths more impactful. His stats across the board are looking to increase as well. Plus the natural improvement in his game -- he is just 23 years old -- should make him improve as well. STATISTICALLY, he finished the year with top 15 value. He was top 5 value over over the last month if I'm not mistaken. I understand that these rankings are not the be-all and end-all, but not acknowledging this would be a mistake. My verdict: I'm not on the hype train on Kawhi and I would never draft him at 15. However, I think my more reasonable/objective view on him would make me draft him at 25+ or early 3rd round. Imo he's a great pick that is more situational. Fits perfectly on punt AST teams. P.S. I understand that you dislike TOs so much. However, the standard leagues in Yahoo! are 9-cat and as much as you hate them, you have to include TOs in your analysis (of Kawhi) if you want to include players of standard y! leagues in your readership.
I wouldn't touch him in H2H, but he finished as the 15th-best player in 9-cat leagues last year on Yahoo! His percentages/low turnovers make him EXTREMELY valuable under those settings.
My bad, typo - I meant "he's barely the spurs' 3rd option at this point" And sorry if I sounded confrontational in my first comment. You are one of the most respected fantasy basketball gurus around, so I was shocked when I read your ridiculous claim that Leonard is a top 60 player. Nonetheless, I really enjoy reading your articles and hope you will keep up the good work!
Top 60? Are you kidding me? He's not barely the spurs' 3rd option at this point... Anyone that would consider drafting Leonard at all should quit playing fantasy basketball. top 150 at best tbh...
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