The 4-Down Podcast, Episode 31: Discussing Kawhi Leonard



Photo credit: Dirk Hansen

After a lockout-induced hiatus, the 4-Down Podcast returns. After meeting in person for the first time in New York City last weekend, Graydon and I talk about Kawhi Leonard. At a bar in Brooklyn, Graydon and I discovered that Kawhi Leonard played in Jimmer Fredette’s All-Star game in Utah. This sounded like as good a time as any to chat about how Leonard will impact the Spurs next season. It also gave us a chance to discuss the departure of George Hill and what kind of void the draft day trade of Hill leaves on the Spurs’ roster.

We also tackle the unique dimensions Leonard possesses. For a 6’7″ guy, Leonard has ridiculously long arms and freakishly large hands. It’s safe to say the Spurs haven’t had a player like Leonard in a while.

Subscribe to the 4-Down Podcast via iTunes. Or you can can keep up using the RSS feed. You can also download the audio file (33:53, 48.8 mb) or listen below. Whatever you do, please leave us good feedback and ratings in iTunes, I hear that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.



And as a reward for listening, here’s a highlight video that Tad Hathaway of sent us of Kawhi Leonard highlights from Jimmer’s all-star game:

  • GMT

    Have y’all heard that Kawhi has reportedly put on 15 lbs of muscle? That’s pretty damn impressive.

  • Ryan McShane

    Over on (Simmons’ baby), Simmons talks about who the Spurs (and every other team) would drop if there really was an amnesty clause.

    “And even after they dump [Jefferson], they’re still at $66.2 million for 14 guys next year. If there’s a hard cap, or even a semi-flacid cap, they’re still screwed unless they can turn Tony Park ($50 million through 2015) into a significantly cheaper point guard (like Ricky Rubio or Kyle Lowry).”
    So, is that true? They’re on the hook for $66.2 million next year? What about Tim Duncan’s contract? Does he still have the ETO, or did that option run out when the lockout started? 

    “I think it’s fascinating that (a) Spurs owner Peter Holt has the most juice of any owner in this lockout, (b) the owners are pushing for a hard cap, and (c) no 2011-2012 team would be more screwed over by a hard cap than the Spurs.”

  • andy

    formidible drinking skills coupled with “speech that isn’t super crisp”? not only do i love nbaplaybook, but apparently sebastian and i are twins. although jack and coke is not my weapon of choice.

    i’m excited about kawhi leonard, if we ever have a season.

  • Bry

    That is true. Even if they waived Jefferson, they’d still have that amount of money to pay, although Dice may retire and then half of his salary would also drop. That amount includes basically the entire team. The Spurs have everyone locked up while other teams (like Dallas and Memphis) still have a number of key players that are free agents. That isn’t that bad. San Antonio doesn’t have a good cap position this year, but ONLY this year. After that, they are fine. There’s no reason to dump Parker just to try to get below the cap for one year. They will easily be under the cap after this season is over. Also, this season may not even have 82 games, so it wouldn’t go that much against Holt’s interests if the season got shortened the one year where he may prefer it to do just that. I really doubt the Spurs would waive anybody under that clause, even Jefferson, unless the one-time allowance meant that his contract would be neither against the luxury tax OR the salary cap. In the end, Holt still has to pay Jefferson, and the Spurs still are most thin at the small forward position, so I don’t see them doing that just for the heck of it.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Well they ARE supposedly talking about an amnesty that applies to both the luxury tax and the salary cap. And are they really all that thin at SF? While it’s not necessarily their best position, both Manu and James Anderson have shown that they could be very effective playing their. Besides, this is the NBA. If there’s one thing that isn’t in short supply, it’s small forwards.

  • Anonymous

    Surely they would give some time for the hard cap to bed in, like 2 or 3 years. How would the Lakers/Mavs for example drop 20 million salary in the summer. They’re not gonna enforce it from year 1. So we’ll be fine.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Honestly after the lockout if the new CBA makes it advantageous for us to dump RJ and we had to go with KL I don’t think we would be that much better but it wouldn’t hurt us at the same time. We would be idle for the first year at that position. It wouldnt help us but it wouldnt hurt us and youd have him off the books now instead of figuring out how to move him in the near future when we really need to.

  • Ryan McShane

    I don’t think they would make teams drop X dollars to get below the hard cap, but they would keep teams from spending any more money. 

    We’ll just have to wait for the new CBA.

  • Ryan McShane

    I just don’t see why Duncan would put the team in this position – that is, force the team to stand pat. He’s playing because he wants a championship… or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe…

  • Tyler

    Yeah, I get the sense no one realistically believes a hard cap would be instituted from day 1. At worst, it would be phased in over a couple years. It’s a negotiation. You start at one point with a range in mind you wish to land on. I think that’s true for both sides.

  • Tyler

    Duncan has taken less money than he’s had to nearly every time he’s resigned with the Spurs. In his last contract, the FO gave him two options – the max, and a lower figure along with a plan on how they’d improve the club with the leftover money. Guess which one he picked?

    Like nearly every other superstar, TD has been underpaid his entire career. At his peak, even w/ a max deal, he was worth more. If anything, he’s put the franchise in great position.

    He’s owed $21M this season. Even at a slightly reduced production from last year, a player of his skill is probably worth $10-13M IMO. So really, he’s overpaid by about $10M in the last year of his contract. Not a big deal relative to other teams in the league.    

  • Ryan McShane

    I heard somewhere he’s made close to 200 million dollars. As someone who knows the mentality of these players told me, an extra 10 million is nothing to them. “What can I do with 210 million that I couldn’t do with 200 million?” If Duncan seriously wants to win (and still has the choice for an ETO), he’ll use the ETO and re-sign. 

    I could see Buford using the amnesty on Duncan and paying him the vet minimum for a season. Is that allowed? Could a team use amnesty on a player and then re-acquire them?

  • Bry

    As far as I know, there is no ETO on Duncan’s contract. Even if there was, I wouldn’t expect Duncan to take it. Waiving Duncan in the hopes of getting him back later would be insanely risky, and completely disrespectful to Duncan. And, there’s no way he play for the veteran’s minimum. There would be a dozen teams around the league offering him 10 per year. There’s no point in trying to screw Duncan out of his salary unless it would put us well below the cap to bring in a big free agent. It won’t. Next year, they’ll be sitting pretty. Of course people will then start saying Ginobili should give away his salary that year for the same reason. I think people have to accept that SA’s roster is pretty much set for 2011-2012. I think it is an excellent roster, and I predict 55-57 wins this year (assuming there is a season).

  • Bry

    True, but neither Anderson nor Manu are really small forwards. They are just two-guards that occasionally play a bigger position. And neither can play the 4 during small-ball. If they waive Jefferson (and even if he then didn’t count against the cap) they will still be over the cap, and cannot sign any pricey SF free-agents. And, they still have to pay Jefferson the money, if he goes elsewhere and plays for peanuts. The only reason to do it is if they really think Leonard can hit the ground running and play starter minutes his entire rookie season. That’s a big roll of the dice, but then again he IS the highest Spurs pick in more than a decade….

  • Bry

    I’m no fan of RJ’s contract, but one positive about it is you can actually get something back if they ever find a trade for him because salaries have to match. His FG percentage was good last year, and he averaged double figures, so his contract isn’t that toxic. He’s just overpaid by a few million. Then again, that’s probably why they won’t waive him and either just hold onto him and play him heavy minutes, or continue to seek a trade that bring back in another SF.

  • Titletown99030507d

    If they’re going long haul with RJ they need to find a way to change up his contribution on the offense. Somebody get him the ball going to the rim. It’s going to take someone running the point to get him involved a little more. Manu tends to run the point from time to time, hope he gets him involved. I can’t see Pop parking RJ in the corner and waiting for an occasional 3, he’s better than that. I’d like to see enough movement from them to get him going into the lane like he did early in the season last season. If that happens and KL becomes the player we all think he might be than all we need to worry about is the front court help for Timmy. We all know Splitter and Timmy is not enough. Maybe Blair will become the beast he was once again. And  hopefully this time his confidence doesn’t waiver. And as for the sandwich man? Not sure how he’s going to do next season? I’m glad I’m not RC or Pop. They got their hands full on that one.

  • Tyler

    TD doesn’t have an ETO (and he definitely wouldn’t exercise it if he did). 

    Using the amnesty provision on TD would be a slap in the face to the franchise’s best player of all-time. Also, in 2005, you couldn’t resign a player you just cut with the amnesty provision. I’m assuming there will be something similar in any future version of the rule.

  • Tyler

    If there’s an amnesty provision, RJ is gone. He’s owed $30M over the next three seasons (player option for the last year, which he’ll pick up). Only TP is on the hook for more over the next 4 years.

    We tried all offseason to unload him, and couldn’t. In this financial climate, there’s no market for 31 year old SF who has put up average #’s over the last few years. And in the future, it’s only going to be tougher to move him. You’re never going to get equal value back from an RJ trade. It’d be strictly a salary dump. And if that’s the case, why choose to take back salary in a trade, as opposed to cutting the cord right now?

    Depending on where the luxury tax # comes in over the next few seasons, the Spurs could save $10-20M   in taxes alone over the next 3 years. And if the amnesty provision provides salary cap savings in addition to luxury tax savings, it could be even more. No brainer.

  • Andrew A. McNeill

    According to ShamSports’ usually reliable salary information, Duncan does have an ETO this offseason. I doubt he’ll use it though.

  • Andrew A. McNeill
  • Andrew A. McNeill
  • Tyler

    You are correct

  • Titletown99030507d

    I don’t think the Spurs FO is into paying out 30 mil for someone who wont suit up for them. They just don’t roll that way. How bout extending TP’s contract or is that a no go for you. But then again in 4 years we’ll be in the same situation maybe.

  • Tyler

    Regardless of what happens, the Spurs are paying RJ $30M over the next 3 years. That’s not changing. The questions is this: Will the salary cap/luxury tax savings exceed the cost of a replacement player? If so, you let him go and replace him. Obviously, there are other factors, but those are the main two.
    I’m just speculating here, but if we were to use the amnesty exception, RJ is the choice. The salary cap is only going to get harder under the next CBA and long contracts for mediocre players only serve to make any rebuilding/re-tooling harder. RJ has a huge contract and (more importantly) no trade value – the amnesty clause is built for this type of player. As far as production, between Anderson, Manu, Leonard, Green (?), and maybe some veteran SF, I think we’d be alright.I stuck TP’s contract in there as a point of comparison. 

  • Bob

    Exactly. The Spurs knew they had to play at a faster pace to get RJ more involved and it worked. He was averaging 20+ earlier in the season. Yet, they slowed down their pace later on. If they can get Jefferson back to 16+ a game I think they’re more dangerous. Ginobili/Parker are going to get their touches but they have to lookout for RJ. If he’s not involved he’s tends to take himself out of the game.

  • Jonas Chang

    Really? Only RJ’s rookie year’s numbers? Kawhi was known to be a solid rebounder and I thought was one metric that translated the best. Certainly RJ averaged 9.4 pts, 3.7 rbds, 1.8 asts per game his rookie year, but he also only averaged 5.0 rebounds through his entire college career. While Leonard probably saw more minutes and usage, he did average 10.6 rebounds per game last year and 9.9 per game the year before. I mean, that’s basically doubled what RJ has. I would say that his offensive game won’t be as polished as RJ’s (though RJ’s wasn’t really that polished when he was a rookie either), but certainly he’ll be a better rebounder. DraftExpress has his best case as Shawn Marion, worst case as Mbah A Moute, both of which I can kind of see. Depending on his defense and rebounding I may go as far as a poor man’s Dennis Rodman in my optimism, but that’s pretty optimistic. While I don’t think he’ll have the gaudy offensive numbers as might be expected, I would certainly expect great things once Chip Engelland has had a summer with him, if he really is as hard a worker as reputed. At this point in time I look at him to perhaps be (also optimistically) closer to Gerald Wallace in his youth than anyone else in the NBA. Of course, hopefully he isn’t as injury prone as Wallace. 

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