The Los Angeles Clippers haven't had the best start in the bubble, losing two of their first three games in Orlando, one against their rivals Lakers and the 12th Phoenix Suns. Things haven't looked that good for them and there might be a good explanation for that. According to former NFL player-turned-analyst Shannon Sharpe, Kawhi Leonard isn't the same defender he used to be and that is affecting his team.
During the Clips' defeat against the Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker drove the defense crazy and he sank the game-winner over Paul George and Kawhi's stretched arms. During a recent edition of UNDISPUTED, Sharpe talked about Kawhi's defense and took a shot at those who praise the Klaw for his defensive talents.
“Everybody keeps telling me the greatest two wing defenders since Jordan and Pippen are those two guys (George and Leonard). I watched earlier this year, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart almost get into it. Both of them lit him (Leonard) up.”
“Kawhi Leonard is not the same defender he once was. His lateral movement, his quickness is not what it used to be. And if anybody says it is, they’re fooling themselves. They’re holding on to things of the past.”
To be fair, Kawhi still has good numbers on the defensive end. He is 7th in the league in Defensive Box Plus/Minus and 10th in Defensive Ratings. However, Sharpe is right in something since Kawhi himself admitted he's not as aggressive as before on the defense.
“I mean, no. That was my job back then. I wasn’t getting the ball as often and my hat had to hang on being the best defensive player," he told Michael Pina of SB Nation. "Can’t do that now. It’s too much energy on the floor.”
Even though Leonard is not giving his 100% on defense, the Clippers are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Still, something needs to change if they want to aspire to win that NBA title in October. They play against the Dallas Mavericks tonight, the number one ranked offensive team in the league. This will be a challenge for the Clippers, Luka Doncic can do a lot of damage to a team with a weakened defense and the Clippers will need to step up, especially Kawhi.