Is it worth waiting for Kawhi Leonard?


Kawhi Leonard He is still recovering from the ACL tear that caused him to miss the entire 2021-22 season. He only played in five of the Clippers’ first 18 games this season, averaging just 22.4 mpg with three starts and two bench appearances.

The stated goal going into the season was for Leonard to run to a minute time of around 20 mpg, then slowly scale back to normal minutes as his health and windage improved. Unfortunately, he started having soreness in his knee after the second game and had to sit out for about a month.

Now, he’s back, and back in the starting lineup playing in the lower 20 seconds in terms of MPG as he restarts the plan to work in form.

The question for the fantasy basketball managers who got their name on Leonard’s rosters and kept them through the first month is this – is it worth the wait? If you hold on until he’s back at full speed, what can you expect from him?

Let’s move forward, with a quick review of the past.

Kawhi missed 73 games during the 2017-18 season after tore his quadriceps muscle, similar to his sitting out last season. When Kawhi returned, these were his averages for the next three seasons:

26.2 PPG (49.1 FG%, 87.4 FT%), 7.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.0 3PG < 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.2 TO/G

The averages per game are solid. That would translate to 47.2 fantasy points per game, which would currently rank 14th in the NBA this season, just behind Pascal I’m sorry (48.4 FP/G) and a little earlier LeBron James (46.2FP/G), I’m Morant (45.9 fp/g) f Devin Booker (45.3 FP/G).

Given those numbers and those names, it’s clear that the proper Leonard is a franchise player in both the NBA and fantasy basketball. In one of the leagues where I drafted Leonard, my friend Kyle called Cohy “a potential league winner” as a third-round pick…and those numbers/names are why.

Everyone would survive this kind of climb, right?

So why, when I was recently asked about the fantasy draft pick I regret most this season, did I say Kawhi’s third-round pick of the same group?

A couple of reasons. First, there was a cost of Leonard/himself not being available for the first month of the season. The War Room League where I’m listing it is a daily H2H points deal, and we’ve played five matches so far. My team, which I share with my assistant manager Stefania, is 0-5…by far the worst team I’ve faced in all of my tournaments.

But let’s look more closely.

In Week 3, our team lost a squeak by 40 Fantasy Points (1,218 – 1,178) with Leonard not playing a game. In Week 5, our team lost by a fantasy 15 points (1,151-1,136) with Leonard playing part-time.

There have been other games where a healthy Kawhi might have made us competitive enough to get another win or two, but at least a moderately below average Kawhi would be good for a couple more wins and get us in the right mix of the league a month later. Instead, this team is already going through a crisis.

So yeah, when I look at what Team Kawhi has been up to now, and what could have been, I regret passing on players like Donovan Mitchell In that league… until now. But the premise of this article, what can we expect from Kouhi moving forward once he has his legs fully under him? So, let’s go back to his averages per game for the past three seasons, but add one more key line:

26.2 PPG (49.1 FG%, 87.4 FT%), 7.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.0 3PG < 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.2 TO/G…

…and 19 missed games per season (out of 75.3 games per season, due to COVID-19 schedule changes)

See, even when Leonard has been as healthy as he could have been over the past three seasons, he’s still missed roughly one game in every four. Most of that was due to load management, as he was planning on not playing in both consecutive halves as well as taking scheduled load management days.

It seems very likely that even when he’s fully primed for the season, he’ll still be playing at 75% gaming speed.

If you have Leonard on your team, and you’re in a league with weekly roster management transactions, that only translates to a 75% rate for him. While 47.2 FP/G would be 14th in the NBA, 75% of 47.2 FP — or 35.4 FP — would be associated with Andrew Wiggins At 50th in the NBA. He’s still an impressive one, but not quite as exciting as waiting for a Morant/Booker-sized impact.

In the daily deal leagues, Leonard is more valuable than that, because you could theoretically have other players on your roster to replace him in some of the games he missed. Not all of them… For example, if he misses a sloppy day of the NBA, chances are you won’t be able to replace him that day.

But, if it’s a busy schedule, like on many Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, you can exchange your Kawhi’s fantasy points for 47 players that are able to give you 25 or 30 fantasy points. Still not perfect, but maybe closer to 88% Kohi instead of 75%…or about 41.5 FP/G on average.

That would put him 25th in the league, up there with Fred VanVleetjust behind Bradley Bell And a little earlier Domantas Sabonis. Still, these are very interesting names that have a great fantasy effect. But… remember, Kawhi’s absence may have already cost your team multiple wins in a season where every win counts.

In these scenarios, is even a VanVleet-sized impact enough to get your team back into a final qualifying race? Your mileage may vary.

Bottom line, if you draft Kawhi Leonard to your fantasy basketball team and stick with it, you’ve already paid some serious equity and are really looking forward to the potential return from making a roster of one of the best players in the NBA.

Just keep in mind that even though his stats per game are more than elite, he’s very likely to miss one out of every four matches as he rolls forward even assuming he’s as close to full health as possible. There is also a risk of re-infestation to consider.

So, my advice is to wait and hope it reaches full koohi status in the near future. If and when he does, have fun with it and make a big deal about it with your fellow leaguers as much as possible.

Just, don’t style it like you’re trying to trade it. Instead, play it like you’re talking trash. If you win a close game with a big Kawhi match or two that puts your team ahead, talk to your undead opponent about how much of a genius you would have caught him while he recovered from his injury.

Do the same every time he drops a 40-point game or hits the winning ball that tops the 10th at SportsCenter. Keep the Kawhi name out there in the best possible context. Then, trade him in immediately, as soon as you can calmly negotiate a deal equal to his healthy average of 47.2 FP/G against his 75% rate.

That’s what I would do… You know, if I wasn’t saying this publicly where all 13 of my War Room league mates who work at ESPN can read it.

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