Can Kawhi Leonard come up big for the LA Clippers this season?
Kawhi Leonard coming up with zero points in the final quarter of the LA Clippers‘ season heavily overshadowed the fact that 2019-2020 was one of, if not the best, seasons in his career. What will it take for Kawhi to get back to the numbers of last season?
After a mostly expected collapse of epic proportions in the WCSF against Denver, the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was laughed at by the majority of the NBA world. A team’s two best players scoring no points in the biggest quarter of the season will down any team, let alone a team that was heavily expected to finally go to the promised land of the WCF for the first time in 50 seasons.
Despite Paul George just doing his usual thing in coming up short, Kawhi’s performance was much more surprising. This was a player that was coming off 133 points, 35 assists, and 54 rebounds in six games of the WCSF, and yet he was only able to muster up 14 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds in the biggest game of the season. So, what is the deal?
We can say for a fact that Kawhi is no choker considering his last three playoff runs. The fact of the matter is that Kawhi was trapped under the crumbling building that was that 2020 LA Clippers team. From the very start of that Game 7, it looked as if most of the team had given up after blowing back-to-back 4th quarter leads in Game 5 and Game 6.
Paul George turned the ball over five times, Lou Williams gave his very best to give a total of 7 points, and by the time the 4th quarter ended, it was a 104-89 blowout. Surprisingly, the ever unimpressive playoff-Montrezl Harrell gave 20 points from the bench. Would have helped if he had mustered up that effort in those Game 5 and Game 6 losses with his single-digit point counts before thinking about what his next team would be.
The past is the past, however, and there is no point in blaming a team that was self-defeated with a 3-1 lead. This article is about Kawhi Leonard, so now that we looked at that collapse and know how torrid the ending to those 2020 Playoffs was for him, how can he bounce back next season? Well, it’s pretty simple. Repeat performance of last year’s season, and forget about that Game 7.
In 2019-2020, Kawhi was averaging 27.1 points, 4.9 assists, and 7.1 rebounds per game. Even in the playoffs with that horrid Game 7, Kawhi’s averages were 28.2 points, 5.5 assists, and 9.3 rebounds per game. He was having an amazing first year being back home in Los Angeles, and he even beat out his championship averages from the previous year in all of those categories except points. If this is what Kawhi’s prime is like, all he needs to do is continue to play at this level.
To be brutally honest, the only thing that Kawhi needs to come back from next season is last season’s Game 7. It has already been discussed to death, but outside from a few slightly shaky games from the playoffs, there is really no other blemish on Kawhi’s 2020 run other than Game 7. He shouldn’t have to carry a team full of guys that had mentally checked out, and it is clear that he did his best before collapsing in like the rest of that LA Clippers team. So, if he can move past that Game 7, there is still plenty of brilliant play to be expected out of Kawhi.
Think about it like this. In the 13 games he played in last season’s playoffs compared to the 24 that he played in 2019, Kawhi was off by just 10 steals, 22 assists, 31 threes, and 81 two-pointers from tying his legendary performance in Toronto. In eleven games less, Kawhi was still on track to get back to those 2019 numbers if he had played through the WCF and the NBA Finals. It would help Kawhi greatly if he could seek out a worthy secondary scoring option and a more sound defense helping him out. Even making do with an inconsistent Paul George and an only slightly improved defense, that might be just enough for Kawhi to get things done as long as he sees a continuation in his current statistics and moves forward from Game 7.
In closing, Kawhi Leonard’s amazing season was overshadowed by a terrible Game 7 performance, and now all that is left to be done is to try and repeat everything up to that performance next season. There really are no specific tips or tricks for Kawhi, he is just a great athlete. He is serious about winning that first chip for the LA Clippers, and he will be working hard this offseason to see to it that he can ride alongside his new coach and some new teammates to accomplish what he couldn’t last season.
The real question for the LA Clippers next season isn’t whether Kawhi can repeat his amazing play on the court, but rather if everyone else can get over the drama of last season to make a serious push towards breaking a now laughable curse. At this moment, the future isn’t looking promising for LA outside of Kawhi, but who really knows what awaits the NBA world in 2021?