2011 NBA Draft Combine Coverage: Kawhi Leonard's Versatility is His Biggest Asset - June 14
"Can I see your hands?"
That was actually a question posed to Kawhi Leonard at the 2011 NBA Draft Combine media time. It was not a completely asinine question though, as the former San Diego State Aztec has freakishly large hands that measured 11.3 inches long.
Aside from people's fascination with his hands, Leonard figures to be one of the top picks in the 2011 NBA Draft and might be the most versatile player in the entire class.
As San Diego State continued to rattle off win after win to start the season, forward Kawhi Leonard's NBA Draft stock began to catch more attention. However, it was not until after the Aztecs' incredibly successful season that Leonard emerged as a mid-lottery prospect due to eye-raising individual workouts.
"People probably didn't know I could dribble the ball as well as I can," Leonard told me at the 2011 NBA Draft combine when talking of his workout performances. "That probably surprised some of the Internet sources out there. Just me working hard on my shot, just knocking down shots, I think they've seen that a lot."
Knocking down shots was a weakness for Leonard in college as he only connected on 29.1 percent of his triple tries this past season. Still, Leonard led San Diego State by averaging 15.5 points per game. While he is a capable scorer off the bounce, it is other areas of his game that make him attractive to NBA teams.
Despite only standing at 6-7, Leonard grabbed 10.6 rebounds per game with more than three per contest coming on the offensive glass. I asked Leonard what makes him such a ferocious rebounder.
"My will, wanting to get the ball in my hands," Leonard answered. "Rebounding wins championships. Second chance points or limiting the offense to one chance to score the basketball."
Besides crashing the boards, Leonard considers his defense his other biggest strength. He guarded just about every position on the floor this past season, even checking Jimmer Freddette in San Diego State's intense battles with Mountain West rival BYU.
"That's how I get started in a game," Leonard said. "I like to get after it on the defensive end. If my opponent isn't scoring then we're going to win the game. I take a lot of pride in trying to shave the player's points off his average or not make him have a good shooting night."
While Leonard can rebound and defend multiple positions, he is also extremely athletic and uses his huge mits to be a solid ball-handler. He is without question one of the most versatile players in this draft class which is a major factor in his being a likely mid-lottery pick.
"Versatility is a lot to me; I just don't want to be a single-element player," Leonard said. "I like to do a lot of things on the court. I just want to be a complete basketball player; dribble, pass, shoot, be a leader, play defense, block shots, steals, I want to do it all.
"I look at various positions, like Carmelo Anthony," Leonard added. "He's got a great mid-range game. I look at point guards the way they come off screens. The more versatile players like James Worthy who could do a lot of things on the court, rebound pass, defend"
The most likely landing spots for Leonard are sixth to the Wizards, eighth to the Pistons, or ninth to the Bobcats. Charlotte would probably be ecstatic if he fell to them at No. 9 especially since they are looking for a replacement for Gerald Wallace, a player Leonard is often compared to.