Why is Kawhi so humble
Kawhi Leonard's statistical legacy
As is common in any hairdressing debate, statistics play a crucial role in assessing an NBA player's historical location in the overall hierarchy.
For players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, the numbers are so overwhelming that there is little room for discussion. Objectively, both are so far advanced in their respective career statistics that they make a further comparison.
For Kawhi Leonard, however, the story is a little different.
The almost 30-year-old superstar striker has a very modest database of statistics, despite having averaged less than 26 points per game over the past five seasons, a two-time NBA champion.
By April 28, Leonard had accumulated 10,976 career points and 3,659 rebounds. Those numbers are far from bad for the average NBA career, but for someone of his caliber now playing in NBA season 10, they are ... overwhelming.
If you apply the context to your career, you can quickly see how that adds up. Leonard started his career as a defensive end, only posting 15 points per game in his fourth season. Shortly after expanding his attacking play, he developed a quad injury that ultimately, if indirectly, led to an NBA development in management; the load.
In short, Leonard just hasn't played enough games to really boost offensive volume and give his career numbers a boost.
If you think, "So what? Why are his career stats still important?" Congratulations to you, because that is absolutely the mindset that should be applied to basketball in general, let alone Leonard because of the context above.
However, reality offers a different perspective.
At the age of 30 to 40, future NBA fans immerse themselves deeply in the roaring 2020s of basketball. Most would find a big gap between Leonard's career numbers and those of, say, James Harden.
The latter has accumulated 22,022 points, 5,712 assists and 4,782 ridiculously impressive rebounds in his 12 NBA seasons so far, which objectively overshadows Leonard's.
Currently, Leonard is considered the top player in many circles. Some would even say it's not even close.
However, taking a snapshot of the present is usually an impossible task as the context is lost over time.
If hair salons discuss Leonard and Harden's merits in the 2060s, what will be the basis for their conclusion?
Under such a goal, Harden wins this discussion down. And let's not even talk about Russell Westbrook's triple-double seasons.
Leonard could be reduced to a footnote, or someone the alumni in the background (probably still played by Edd i.e. Murphy and Arsenio Hall) will remember as one of the most dominant two-way forces that the League has ever seen.
That's all to ask: How much stock should we put into the career numbers, especially when compared to Leonard?
It seems optimistic to expect Leonard to suddenly have a major five-year rift catching up with Harden, and it wouldn't be in his character to even bother with such an arbitrary target at all.
But in a league where players are becoming more and more heliocentric with each season, players like Leonard, not to mention Draymond Green, stand out as potential long-term victims of a statistic and an animated narrative.
Hence, any attempt to preserve such a legacy can be in vain. It is all the more important, however, that we, the collective global NBA community, put the currently dominant players in the spotlight and appreciate them for their work, even if their raw stats are not at the top of the league.
Take this as a headlight.
What Leonard has done in the past fifty years has been extraordinary. While he doesn't get a triple-double, you can get him over 25 points, over 6 rebounds, elite defense, and one of the lowest turnover rates in the NBA for any high-use player.
(The cap on sales might not be a sexy statistic, but for his career Leonard has a TOV% of only 9.1, which is completely ridiculous. Even if he's been increasing his ballpoints in the last three years, he's still just been 9.2 percent which is mind blowing.)
In his last six seasons, Leonard has not failed to break below a PER of 25 and during that time he also achieved a TS% of 60.7. are elite brands. Leonard's level of consistency is among the best we've seen in NBA history.
Part of that consistency stems from the fact that Leonars baseline is incredibly high. If anything, he seldom sees games where he is at the bottom. This season he hasn't had a single game under 15 points and only two games with less than 40% of the field.
Of course, he's not the type of gamer who suddenly starts for 55 points once a month, which is possibly one of the reasons why he tends to get under the radar.
In fact, Leonard's career record is 45 points. Fittingly, his career is high in the playoffs too.
Instead, Leonard has found a level of comfort in which he settles down every night, where no big numbers follow, but precise readings, effective attacks and tough defense become his bread and butter.
Ultimately, we may need to realize that Leonard's raw numbers just don't do him justice when all is said and done. His career could go under, historically seen as one of the best in the present.
If so, maybe it is time to pay a little more attention to it.
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