NBA Playoffs 2012: Rookie Kawhi Leonard Continues to Impress in San Antonio

Karthik TadisinaSenior Writer IMay 20, 2012

Kawhi Leonard and Pop.
Kawhi Leonard and Pop.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs continue to impress in the postseason as they prepare themselves for another deep run led by their Big Three and their deep roster.

It has been the younger players on the roster that have been fulfilling and/or more than fulfilling their roles that have made the Spurs a tough team to defeat in the playoffs.

However, one player that has been making a name for himself with his maturity and level-headed play has been none other than rookie forward/guard Kawhi Leonard.

The 6’7", 225-pound Leonard was acquired by the Spurs on draft night from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for George Hill and has been able to find his role in the starting lineup with the likes of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

Could Leonard be the most underrated rookie in the NBA this season?

Well, he could very well be.

He appears to be a long mainstay in San Antonio, though. Leonard was mentioned as a solid pick coming into the draft, but has become a special player for the Spurs organization and could be the next Bruce Bowen clone.

Leonard averaged 7.9 points per game and 5.1 rebounds during the regular season where he did start 39 games while shooting close to 38 percent from the three-point line.

Additionally Leonard’s ability to play defense and make timely baskets as well as his general court awareness has made him a favorite of veteran head coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich has raved about how much progress Leonard has made as a rookie this season.

In the playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Leonard averaged 7.0 points per game, but has seen his scoring increase to 10.5 points in the first two games against the Los Angeles Clippers.

At the end of the day, Leonard is able to produce on the basketball court and fits nicely on a team filled with veteran talent that is looking to win now. Learning from the veterans in San Antonio should also make him a key part of the team down the road.