Toronto Raptors

The good, the bad and the ugly from Kawhi Leonard's preseason with the Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard (Victory Creative)

There was a lot of unknown about Kawhi Leonard when the Toronto Raptors traded for him this offseason, but we have a much better idea of how the two-time All-Star will fit in with his new team following three preseason games.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Kawhi's preseason...

The good

There's no better place to start than with the numbers.

In 22.6 minutes per game, Kawhi averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals in preseason. It might not sound like much, but that's close to what he posted on a per-minute basis in his best regular seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.

Even though it was in limited minutes over three preseason games, it's a step in the right direction for someone who barely played last season.

Kawhi Leonard's stats per 36 minutes
2015-16 23.0 7.5 2.8 1.9
2016-17 27.5 6.3 3.8 1.9
2017-18 25.0 7.2 3.6 3.1
2018-19 (preseason) 21.2 6.9 5.3 3.2

How he got those numbers was equally as encouraging.

The beauty in Kawhi's game is he's not someone who relies heavily on his athleticism to make an impact on offense. He's at his best when he's getting to his spots from midrange and using his size to shoot over smaller defenders, something he did time and time again in preseason.

He's a lot like DeMar DeRozan in that sense, though Kawhi benefits from having a slight height and length advantage over the former Raptor.

That's a side of Kawhi we have seen before. A side we haven't? The one that lives at the free throw line.

Kawhi attempted 8.3 free throws per game during preseason, putting him near the top of the league. It's probably the most encouraging sign from his preseason performance, as the leg injury that limited him to nine games last season didn't prevent him from relentlessly attacking the basket and absorbing contact.

As's Micah Adams noted, Kawhi could be in line to break Vince Carter's franchise single-season scoring record of 27.6 points per game if he can continue to get to the line at a career rate in the regular season.

The bad

Small sample size alert: Kawhi's struggles from the 3-point line last season carried over into preseason. After making 31.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in the nine games he played last season, he went 1-for-8 from deep in preseason.

While it's highly unlikely that one of the best shooters in the league has suddenly lost his touch from long range, Kawhi's 3-point shooting is the biggest thing separating him from DeRozan offensively, so it's something to at least monitor moving forward.

The only other part of Kawhi's preseason that could be considered "bad" is his passing. Despite posting a usage rate comparable to Kevin Durant and LeBron James, he only recorded three assists in a combined 38 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.

Kawhi has never been a high volume passer, but it would be good to see him have a career year in the assist department this season, much like DeRozan did in his final season with the Raptors. He certainly has the vision to do so, as he displayed in his final preseason game.

In 31 minutes, Kawhi dished out a team-high seven assists against the Brooklyn Nets. He got into the paint at will and consistently made the right reads to set his teammates up with open looks.

With passing being the biggest thing separating DeRozan from Kawhi offensively, Kawhi should have no problem replacing DeRozan if his showing against the Nets is a sign of what's to come.

The ugly

The only "ugly" part of Kawhi's preseason performance was his shooting at the charity stripe. Of the 25 free throws he attempted, 15 went down.

Is it reason for concern? Not in the slightest. With Kawhi being a 84.6 percent shooter from the free throw line in his career, we can chalk this one up to rust.

The next step

All things considered, Kawhi's preseason went about as well as anyone could've expected. The shooting efficiency wasn't there, but he scored close to his usual rate on offense and there's no reason to believe that the few things he struggled with won't improve as he works his way back into shape.

Kawhi even showed off some of the versatility that got back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards against the Nets, switching across the board and using his long arms to come up with four steals.

Now all the Raptors need him to do more of the same for 30-plus minutes per game over the course of an entire regular season and postseason.

Having been in the MVP race a couple of times before, we know Kawhi is more than capable of it. We just need to see if his body can still hold up after the injuries he dealt with last season.

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