In the past three seasons Leonard had gone from elite defensive prospect to NBA Finals' MVP and this could be just the beginning for him in terms of an ascent to stardom.
Not too shabby for the 15th overall pick in 2011, a spot that hasn't exactly been known to produce many productive NBA players, let alone NBA Finals' MVP's.
In fact, in a study done by ESPN.com a few years ago examining Estimated Wins Added by draft position, the 15th pick in the draft produced on average only two wins. This means that when selecting 15th overall, you're most likely to draft a player who over his career only contributes on average about two wins to his team, and therefore isn't exactly a difference-maker. This same ESPN D.R.A.F.T. Initiative therefore estimated that on average when picking 15th overall, you're likely to get a player of a Kelvin Cato-type caliber, yes, a far cry from Leonard.
There are exceptions of course. Steve Nash was drafted 15th overall in 1996 so is the high-water mark (at least for now) for this draft position. The low-water mark based on ESPN.com's analysis was Anthony Avent. (Who?? Right.)
So what about the 20th spot overall, where the Toronto Raptors are selecting from in a couple weeks?
This position on average sees a player drafted who adds about a win to his team over the course of his career. Not great, but as good or better than the 18th and 19th positions based on this study, so not a complete black hole. In terms of the average player, the Dinos should expect to nab someone who produces along the lines of Renaldo Balkman. Again, not awful, but fans shouldn't be holding their breath to grab a high-impact player at this position.
Of course every draft is different so that "Balkman average" masks some of the better options that have been selected this late in the draft. Examples in this spectrum would include Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Brendan Haywood, Dahntay Jones and Jameer Nelson. Recently teams haven't had much luck however as post Balkman, we've heard names like Snell, Fournier, Ajinca and Maynor called. Donatas Montiejunas was also a 20th overall pick and could become a decent exception to the "Balkman average," but from these names, you get a pretty good idea of what to expect.
The Ilgauskas example though is intriguing as he was part of that vaunted 1996 draft class, my favourite draft group of all time. In another draft class, Big Z may in fact have gone a lot higher and perhaps this year's deep group of prospects produces similar results. Perhaps due to the depth of this year's class, the Dinos net someone who ends up out-producing their estimated wins added mark by a long shot, and is a key player for the franchise going forward. (Think Morris Peterson in 2000, the 21st pick overall in that draft.)
Just don't hold your breath for such a result.
More than likely, the player the Raptors' land will be much more Kareem Rush, than Kawhi Leonard.