Make no mistake — Kawhi Leonard is a bad, bad man.
On both ends of the floor, Leonard has proven himself to be a great NBA player. He is an assassin working the mid-range game and has developed into a near-40% three-point shooter. Starting Monday night, the Rockets will have their hands full trying to contain him.
But there’s something else that the Rockets will have a hard time controlling.
Kawhi is devastating enough to guard in the post, but even harder when officials aren’t watching his footwork. When Leonard picks up his dribble, there’s no telling what he’ll do and it seems as if NBA rules no longer apply. Leonard will hop into the lane, take extra steps and change his pivot foot — often.
It’s that pivot foot that’s the problem. Sometimes it just slides and slides. Other times he changes his pivot foot completely when the defense doesn’t give him what he needs. It’s the kind of thing that once you see him do it, you can’t unsee it… and you will see it in this series. It cost the Rockets a game back in December when Leonard’s six-step travel set Patty Mills up for a game-winning three-pointer, something the NBA later acknowledged in their L2M report.
Have a look for yourself.
“But doesn’t everybody travel in the NBA?”
Certainly the league, to their own detriment, has let an extra step slide by here and there and that shouldn’t happen. But it definitely shouldn’t be this egregious to where the go-to move of one of their marquee guys is to pivot off either foot. Why do NBA officials not see this when it’s happening? Good question. As I’ve said, Leonard is plenty good enough and doesn’t need this to do his damage, but it does give him an advantage when he operates inside the arc.