#15: Kawhi Leonard – Traded
It seemed a bit odd that Indiana would draft Kawhi Leonard despite the fact that they already have a small forward in Danny Granger, and sure enough Leonard was almost immediately moved to the San Antonio Spurs for point guard George Hill.
One of Indiana’s goal for the offseason was to acquire a bigger point guard to pair with Darren Collison so larger opposing guards were a little easier to defend. However, Hill brings a lot more than just defense to the table, and certainly is a higher-quality player than anything Indiana could’ve acquired via free agency. Leonard may end up being a good NBA player (who are we to judge San Antonio’s draft selections?), but Hill already is, and that bodes well for the Pacers.
Hill can also play off the ball alongside Collison, giving the Pacers a much more versatile backcourt. That was what they’d hoped to accomplish, and they got it done. Great move for Indiana, and certainly a risky one for the Spurs. It’ll take some time to determine who got the better end of this one.
Nobody could’ve guessed that Kawhi Leonard would’ve slipped all the way to the 15th pick in the 2011 draft, but he most certainly did, and the Indiana Pacers didn’t waste too much time reining him in.
This is a classic case of taking the best player available instead of drafting for need. What Indiana needed was depth at shooting guard and power forward, but instead what they ended up with was one of the top talents and top competitors in the entire draft class.
Coming out San Diego State, where his team made more noise nationally than anyone would’ve ever expected, Leonard’s claim to fame in this class is the fact that he’s got gigantic hands. Physically, he’s one of the most mature players in the draft, and that’s played a huge role in him being one of the more coveted defensive prospects in the class. He works harder than almost any of his contemporaries, and his athleticism is through the roof. Players this good don’t often fall this deep into the draft, but Indy got themselves a gem despite not even having been in the lottery.
Leonard is a small forward, which means playing time could be difficult behind the team’s franchise player, Danny Granger, but long-term Leonard has said that he can see himself as a shooting guard. Paul George is a similar kind of swing player, and between the two of them and Granger, the shooting guard and small forward positions should be pretty much full with minutes.
With Brandon Rush still under contract as well, this means Indiana will probably not pursue a shooting guard in free agency as aggressively as they may have before the draft. Instead, they’ll probably focus on adding frontcourt depth.
In the meanwhile, the Pacers will happily welcome Kawhi Leonard to the team. Excellent pick for Indiana halfway through the first round.
Update: Leonard is reportedly going to San Antonio for point guard George Hill. Indy will also send the #42 overall pick and the rights to Erazem Lorbek.