Having a career season on the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard looks to hit the free agent market as one of the most sought after players in the league – especially by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. With his unbelievable two-way prowess throughout the playoffs, some analysts are starting to question if Leonard might be the best player in the entire league.
While the defense has always been Kawhi Leonard’s calling card, his offensive game has gotten progressively better with each season. Once thought of as an elite 3 and D wingman, Leonard is now capable of quarterbacking an offense while creating open looks for himself that he drains at insanely efficient clips. While there are still players that put up gaudier stat lines, few players have the overall impact across the entire game that Leonard brings to the table.
One interesting fact is that Laker legend Kobe Bryant actually worked out with Leonard a bit the previous offseason. Looking at the evolution of Leonard’s offensive game, you can actually see glimpses of Kobe Bryant, particularly in the way he now uses his footwork to create open mid-range looks.
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Kawhi Leonard Training With Kobe Bryant Could Be Big for Lakers in Free Agency
More than just helping Leonard on the basketball court, Kobe’s relationship with Kawhi could be to be a big factor for the Lakers in free agency. Leonard is notoriously tight-lipped on his plans, especially being just a game away from reaching the NBA Finals with the Raptors. Kawhi has always marched to the beat of his own drum and there is a good chance that even those in his inner circle don’t have much of an idea as far as where he wants to go or what he wants to do.
He will almost certainly go through the motions and meet with a number of suitors in free agency and this is where his familiarity with Kobe could come into play. A voice that Leonard clearly respects should have a big part in pitching him on the franchise and if there is one thing we actually know about Leonard, it is that until he feels wronged, he puts a lot of faith into those he trusts. With all that said, Leonard may simply just not want to join forces with LeBron James and this could all be a moot point, especially if he already picks up a ring in Toronto.
Other Notable Players Kobe Has Worked With during Past Offseasons
Jayson Tatum is one of the first players who has worked with Kobe to come to mind. While Tatum took a step back in terms of his production last season, that wasn’t as much him regressing as a player more than an indicator of how the Celtics’ rotational struggles didn’t allow any of their players to get into a comfortable rhythm.
Another player Kobe has publicly challenged and mentored is Giannis Antetokuonmpo. Kobe has been issuing public challenges to Giannis for a few years now and has been vocal in his thoughts that the Greek Freak could be an MVP long before he jumped into the discussion. Especially this past season, we saw Giannis play with an unmatched level of ferocity, even compared to his previous years. While he has an entirely different skillset from Bryant, it is clear Kobe has helped to dial the mental aspect of the Greek Freak’s game.