This is the shortest and yet most accurate player review in the history of RaptorsHQ.
The Good: Everything
The Bad: Nothing
The Grade: A+++++++++++++++++
That’s it. That’s the review.
OK, OK, a little more detail here, just for the historians, for whom this will be highly important information in the coming centuries.
First let’s get this out of the way: As of this writing, we don’t know — and we won’t know for another couple of days — whether this will be Kawhi Leonard’s first-ever and only ever Raptors player review, or if this is the first of two, or three, or five, or 10...
So we’ll focus solely on what Leonard did this past season, rather than what he’s gonna do in the future.
And folks... he did a lot!
Kawhi Leonard’s 2018-19 season was like nothing else we’ve ever seen here in Toronto. It is, inarguably as far as I’m concerned, the greatest single-season performance in Raptors history. Shall we attempt to quantify it?
First, some regular season numbers:
- 26.6 points per game: Career-high, team-high, t-sixth in the NBA
- 7.3 rebounds per game: Career-high, second on the team
- 1.8 steals per game: Team-high
- 3.3 assists per game
- .606 true shooting percentage: Third on the team
- 9.5 win shares added: Team-high
Those are some damned impressive numbers, definitely worthy of an A+, right?
Well what if I told you... he was even better in the playoffs!
- 30.5 points per game: Career-high, team-high, third in the NBA playoffs
- 9.1 rebounds per game: Career-high, team-high
- 1.7 steals per game: Team-high
- 3.9 assists per game: Second on the team
- .619 true shooting percentage: Team-high
- 9.5 win shares added: Team-high, led the NBA Playoffs
Still need more evidence? How about some highlights:
- Career-high 45 points in a win over Utah
- 38 points and a (four-bounce!) game-winner against Portland
- 37 points in an OT banger against Kevin Durant and the Warriors
- The no-look steal
- 30 points, career-high eight assists and a banked-in game winner against Brooklyn
- A steal (off of DeMar DeRozan) and go-ahead dunk to beat the Spurs and exorcise some demons
- NBA-All-Star Game starter
- Second-team All-Defense
- Second-team All-NBA
- Two Player of the Week honours
- Buried the 76ers in Game 4
- Hit the greatest shot in Toronto Raptors history, and the only walk-off Game 7 game-winner in NBA history (go watch it again, you know you want to)
- Dunked all over the Bucks, again and again and again
- Scored 10 straight points in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and nearly sent me into a euphoric coma
- Led the team to its first-ever NBA Championship
- Won his second NBA Finals MVP
There’s just no way to add enough “+” signs to that “A.”
It’s hard to judge anything as “bad” after that list of achievements above, but, we’ll try!
First, there’s the missed games. Again, this can’t really be “bad,” in the sense that the load management program kept him fresh for the playoffs, where he played 939 minutes (most in the league); meanwhile, the team went 17-5 in his absence. But, those 22 games represent 22 opportunities for someone to see one of the best players in the world play basketball, and it’s unfortunate that they missed out, and — despite what they’ve said publicly, especially after the fact — I’m sure some of Leonard’s teammates questioned his commitment in the moment.
Second, we saw a lot of the “Raptors offense” — predicated on both ball and player movement, working together to generate quality shots — and the “Kawhi offense” — give the ball to Kawhi and get out of the way. Again, you can’t argue with the results — and, by the end of the postseason, this had disappeared almost entirely as the team truly gelled — but, it made for some angst-y moments during the regular season.
Finally, the one flaw in Kawhi’s game, is his ability to move the ball and make quick decisions when faced with multiple defenders. That playmaking side of his game is still coming together; we saw glimpses of it this year, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The Grade: A+∞
It’s the greatest, most accomplished single season in Toronto Raptors history. Kawhi Leonard did something here, this year, that no one ever has. The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions, and they wouldn’t be without Kawhi Leonard.