Title: How the 76ers could try to adjust to Kawhi Leonard and what the Raptors might do in response
Date: April 29, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, I wrote about how the 76ers may respond to getting dominated by Kawhi Leonard and what the Raptors can be ready to counter with.
Kawhi Leonard will enter Game 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday as the owner of the best true-shooting percentage in NBA playoff history among players to appear in at least 40 games or play at least 1,500 minutes.
He did not become a problem solely in Game 1, though he was a magnificent one then. In every first-round game against the Orlando Magic except for one, he was nearly as dominant. Before he suffered an injury during the 2016-17 playoffs, he was in the midst of the highest-volume 50/40/90 shooting postseason since Larry Bird. (Kevin Durant, it should be noted, is flirting with an even grander one to start here in 2018-19.) And there is, of course, Leonard’s run to 2013-14 NBA Finals MVP.
Whether he could get back to that level was of some question after he missed all but nine games a year ago. The regular season offered some signs amid worthwhile load management. Leonard was back to regular-season Leonard on the offensive end, at least. After a career postseason high of 45 points on ludicrous efficiency — maybe the second-best playoff performance in Raptors history — it’s all pretty clear: Leonard had something in reserve, and he might be every bit as good a big-stage performer as the numbers and the accolades tried to remind everyone during his absence.
He’s now played 93 playoff games, posting that all-time best 62.6 true shooting percentage on modest 21.1 percent usage, numbers that include his earlier years in San Antonio with a smaller role. As his role has grown, so has his dominance: In 18 games over his past two postseasons, he has averaged 28.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, four assists and 1.6 steals on 54.6 percent shooting from the floor, 47.7 percent on 3-pointers and 92.2 percent at the line, good for an even better 68.4 percent true shooting mark on a superstar’s usage, 29.6 percent.
To dispense with the numbers: Philadelphia might have a bit of a Kawhi Leonard problem.