Title: Kawhi Leonard’s playmaking progressing nicely for Raptors
Date: January 11, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Kawhi Leonard’s progress as a playmaker, a development that could unlock the Raptors’ offensive ceiling.
There is no set schedule for a return to form after a player misses nearly an entire season injured. Health is at the forefront of any development, tied closely with overall comfort levels and some less tangible physical aspects like explosiveness. Any athlete will tell you that as much as you work out, there is no substitute for game repetition to get the physical and mental conditioning back to where it needs to be.
It was hard to know exactly what timeline to expect Kawhi Leonard to be operating on this year. Leonard played in just nine games in 2017-18 due to a nebulous chronic overuse injury (quadriceps tendinopathy) and the only thing that was clear when he became a Raptor was that the team would take every precaution and exercise patience with minor injuries and his overall workload. The bet the team made was that Leonard could return to the level of a genuine MVP candidate. So long as he reached something approximating that level by April, the order of the steps along the way wasn’t particularly important.
Logically, playmaking is one of the elements of a player’s offensive game that could be expected to lag, especially when transitioning to a new team. There’s an entire individual comfort level to establish, a new set of teammates and a new offence to learn, and the speed of opposing defences to catch up to. Were there is a step-by-step escalation of offensive ability that returning players could be expected to adhere to, head coach Nick Nurse laid out what it would probably look like in discussing Leonard’s progress on Tuesday.