All the San Antonio Spurs do is keep winning. No matter how many times people want to write them off, they seem to be back in the hunt the next year, challenging for yet another trip to the NBA Finals. Despite the retirement of Tim Duncan, the team hasn’t skipped a beat and a large part of that has been the ascension of Kawhi Leonard from solid rookie into veritable superstar.
In his six NBA seasons, Leonard has two All-Star appearances, an All-NBA First Team appearance, two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, and an NBA Finals MVP award in 2014 when he led the Spurs to the NBA Championship.
Because you’ve read this site before, you know where we’re heading. Yes, there was a time when Leonard wasn’t quite the sure-thing, at least in the minds of many basketball experts. And as the 2011 NBA Draft approached, there seemed to be a head-to-head battle emerging between Leonard and Florida State forward Chris Singleton.
Leonard would end up going 15th overall in that draft while Singleton would end up going 18th to the Washington Wizards. After three subpar seasons, Singleton was out of the league and spent the last couple years bouncing around Europe.
We say that not to shame Singleton. But we do say it to shame the people who were adamant at the time that NBA teams would be dumb not to pick him over Kawhi Leonard.
I'm sorry, but I've seen Kawhi Leonard play about 10 times and if I was an NBA GM, I would take Chris Singleton over him.
— Kelley Bydlon (@Kelley1063) May 17, 2011
Fran Fraschilla vs. Chad Ford: Fran likes Chris Singleton more; Ford likes Kawahi Leonard more. Len Elmore leans Chris Singleton
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) May 20, 2011
The case against Kawhi Leonard, or the case for Singleton/Thompson/Markieff Morris as better options. #Wizards http://sbn.to/jmUXwS
— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) May 24, 2011
Here’s Prada breaking down why Leonard will probably never amount to that much.
Leonard will have to become a passable three-point shooter, because he is so dreadfully inefficient as a two-point shooter. To do that, he will have to play further away from the basket, which negates his rebounding advantage. This is why I’m down on Leonard as a prospect. He’s a great workout guy and has great measurables, but he doesn’t have enough scoring ability to be anything more than a self-check as a 4, and even if he develops a three-point shot and becomes a 3/D type, it takes away his biggest on-court asset (rebounding). There are a lot of interesting things to the Leonard package, but they just don’t add up to me.
And as for Singleton…
I think he will much more easily transition into a 3/D role than Leonard. He improved his three-point shot from last year to this year, and I think he could develop into a three-point shooter in the pros. That allows me to excuse his similarly dreadful 2PT%, because if he’s a 3/D guy, he’s not taking a ton of 2s anyway. Leonard is younger, but I’d rather take Singleton than him.
Careful what you wish for.
Doug Gottlieb, at ESPN at the time, had Singleton all the way up at No. 6 on his big board that year.
Singleton has the perfect skill set for a lockdown defender guarding a 3 in the pros. Not a star, not a great ball handler, but a competitor who guards three positions, can shoot the corner 3 and came back from a foot injury to play in the tourney, even though his draft stock was high. Translation: He loves to play.
Meanwhile he had Leonard down at No. 11.
He has huge hands and is a great rebounder/competitor, but his jumper needs work. Leonard is a dynamic scorer inside 15 feet and has some Latrell Sprewell to his game (without the off-the-court baggage), but he needs a lot of work on the perimeter in order to be higher on the board.
The more I watched Chris Singleton today and thought about it, the more I think I like him better than Kawhi Leonard in the NBA.
— Chris Littmann (@chrislittmann) June 6, 2011
Once the draft began, that didn’t stop the Singleton hype train to keep chugging along.
@nygreporter Chris Singleton. Leonard a close second. Great perimeter defender.
— John Schmeelk (@Schmeelk) June 24, 2011
Leonard solid pick gives them a wing that can guard people. He'll be a Bruce Bown type. I would have gone SIngleton here
— Mike Procopio (@HoopConsultants) June 24, 2011
Spurs fans are fine with everyone’s opinions above and that none of them worked for the organization in 2011.