Kawhi Leonard is coming off a second NBA title season, where he has now taken home the Finals MVP twice. He brought the Raptors home a championship, which is the first in their history. He will now try to do the same with the Los Angeles Clippers, as he teamed up with Paul George in the offseason. Leonard set career highs in points per game, and rebounds per game. Overall he posted a 27-7-3 line averaging 1.8 steals over 60 games. He shot 37.1% from three, and 49.6% from the field. Leonard was a strong fantasy play, but the only knock against him was the deserving rest days. He played just 60 games, and that is a concern we could see again. If he was a lock to play 70+ games then we would be looking to draft him higher.
The Clippers will likely manage the workload between him and George, given his past injury history as well. The Clippers are a well rounded team, and will be able to manage the workload without sacrificing wins on the court. Leonard’s efficiency still makes him a strong fantasy play, especially at the SF position that isn’t particularly deep with this type of potential. There will need to be a contingency plan or at least some depth to help cover those off days throughout the season. Of course if you are in a league where you set the roster before the week, and not daily, then it will be more of a headache.
Kawhi Leonard Projected Fantasy Stats
— Greg Ehrenberg (@gehrenbergdfs) September 3, 2018
Coming off some career highs, an upside more is going to be along the lines of how many games he can play. Leonard continues to bring in stats across all categories, and is an efficient scorer. He has always shown that type of scoring ability, and now he took over a team that gave him monster usage. You don’t get a nickname called the claw for not racking up steals, and he did that again averaging 1.8 per game. Both him and George have posted monster steal numbers, and they should be around the same mark. Overall it is going to be tough sledding for opposing offenses against Leonard this season.
In terms of overall fantasy points, Leonard’s upside is a bit capped. We are hoping he can take 10 games or so off instead of 20, where all of a sudden he would be a bargain for those who passed on him due to the workload management. If he does dwindle back down to 60 games again like last year, we can look at still a fairly solid floor.
We really can look at last season with an idea of what to project Leonard around, and anymore games would just be a plus. He should hover around 25 points per game this season, even with George alongside him. His rebounding and assist numbers should also be the same, and we know the defensive stats will be there as well. Leonard has already shown longevity in the FG% categories, and his efficient three point shooting is also very underrated. He may not be a Curry, but shooting 38% from three in his career is a solid number.
Leonard I see is being drafted more for a ceiling, which we will get into in a moment. His upside around the guys going in his range is still a bit of a stretch. His teammate Paul George is going around him, and both project similar lines for this season. The position scarcity plays into this a little bit, and that would be why he is being drafted where he is.
What to Expect
I’m expecting another strong year for Leonard, and I do feel comfortable taking him as long as I have a plan for those off-days. His efficiency numbers and ability to bring home stats in all categories does make him a top tier player. Early on he has an ADP of about 8.5, and his auction value is around $50. Leonard is going to cost you, despite going around some names that have been durable options over their career and can post ceiling like seasons as well. The next SF options being drafted are Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. Leonard’s production will be higher on a game-to-game basis, but they will have the leg up in games played.
As mentioned above there is position scarcity here, which is why Leonard sits so high. Him producing these numbers for even 60 games is solid, where we get a tremendous drop off after Butler and DeRozan.
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