The Importance: The lingering quad injury has kept Kawhi out of all but nine games this season. Before the first game of the year, the Spurs announced that he wouldn’t be ready because of the same right quad injury. Kawhi then missed the first 27 games. When he returned, he wasn’t able to get back into a groove, and he never played in more than two straight games.
Leonard was held out of a three-game stretch earlier this month before being declared “out” again. He last played against Denver on Saturday, posting 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Leonard has struggled in limited action — he has a career-low 51.8 effective field goal percentage — though his per 36-minutes numbers are similar to what he accomplished last season.
The Takeaway: It’s time to start worrying about Leonard’s injury history. Leonard has missed nearly a quarter of games over his seven seasons. Though that’s largely a product of Gregg Popovich’s propensity to rest his stars in the regular season, Kawhi has had a torn ligament in his right hand, multiple quad contusions, a sprained left ankle, and most recently this right quad injury.
The repercussions to the Spurs this season could be damning. Without Kawhi, a top-five player when healthy, San Antonio is stuck just below the upper echelon in the West. Thanks, in large part, to their system and Popovich’s ability to turn water into wins, the Spurs are third in the West — with the Timberwolves now only a half game behind — and on pace for 50 wins. But even with a healthy Kawhi, it would be difficult to make a case for the Spurs beating the juggernaut Warriors. Without Kawhi, it seems impossible.