Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Tomahawk Tuesday: How long can the San Antonio Spurs survive without Kawhi Leonard?
The San Antonio Spurs are 8-5 and currently 3rd place in the Western Conference. While this appears to be business as usual, the Spurs have had to make due without their superstar Kawhi Leonard, who is yet to play in a game this season due to a quadriceps injury. Even worse, he's expected to be out for a few more weeks, putting his return sometime in December at the earliest.
It's no secret that the Spurs are masters of making due with a shorthanded lineup. It is said that Gregg Popovich can grab any five guys off the street and get them to play team basketball. While this principle is certainly true, it would still be foolish to suggest that the Spurs can maintain long-term success without Leonard.
What makes Leonard such a valuable piece to this team is that he literally does everything. He defends both out on the perimeter and in the paint, he can score both inside and out, and he's absolutely lethal in transition due to his combination of size, speed, quickness, and athleticism. There are some who feel Leonard is the best player in the NBA and when you watch him do his thing on the court, it's hard to argue against that position. He is a jack-of-all-trades wing that continues to get better every season.
Fortunately for the Spurs, they have a really talented big man in LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Aldridge is able to carry more of the scoring load in Leonard's absence and act as a legitimate number one option. In addition to Aldridge, the Spurs have a talented veteran wing in Rudy Gay, who has been averaging 13.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on 47.7% shooting from the field, 41.4% shooting from 3-point range, and 83.8% shooting from the foul line.
In addition to those guys, the Spurs have some quality role players in Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Pau Gasol. The Spurs are once again showing that they are a true team. When one guy goes down, even if it's their superstar, they know how to keep the ship afloat.
As for how long the Spurs can survive without Kawhi Leonard, I think the answer is that they can survive just fine so long as he does eventually come back. They can't win a title without him. That's pretty obvious. However, they can play above .500 basketball and keep themselves in the mix to get a top three or four seed in the Western Conference until he returns.
If you are the Spurs, the main thing you need to do is stay patient and make sure Leonard doesn't come back until he is 100% or very close to it. While it may seem tempting to rush him back a bit sooner, if you have been around the block as many times as the Spurs, you have the luxury to give Leonard all the time he needs. It looks like they are taking this approach and I expect it to pay off for them come April and May.
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