I have no idea how to make sense of this, but there have been some theories floating around about why there is a defensive metric that shows the San Antonio Spurs defense is actually bad when Kawhi Leonard is on the court. And that’s not all.
The Spurs defense actually becomes an elite defense – according to the numbers – when Kawhi Leonard is off the court. Some hoop heads have suggested that this could be because teams are actually isolating Leonard so that he’s completely on the other side of the action from where the play is being ran. Others have said that this is the result of losing Tim Duncan and that Pau Gasol is the direct correlation of this.
I suspect things will even out, but the other end of this metric is quite flawed. See, Kawhi plays nearly 34 minutes a game, so you can only use about a 14 minute sample size – which would be against team’s second units, as your comparable measure. Yeah, there might be a few varaibles here worth mentioning.
Anyway, check out the stat from CBS Sports: (CHART BELOW)
That’s right, the Spurs’ defense gives up the most points per 100 possession, is at its worst statistically, when Leonard is on the floor. I know that sounds crazy, but those are the numbers. San Antonio is significantly worse — 14.8 points per 100 possessions, to be exact — when he’s on the floor. In other words, they go from downright bad on defense to elite when Leonard goes to the bench.