Phoenix Suns passed on drafting Spurs' Kawhi Leonard because of his ‘sweating'

Leonard ‘sweated through his suit' during draft combine interview

Mike Stobe/Getty
Mike Stobe/Getty

SAN ANTONIO – It has been two days since the Spurs were thrashed 136-100 by the Golden State Warriors, but it could be worse.

It could be “Phoenix Suns worse,” who passed on Kawhi Leonard in the 2011 NBA draft because of his excessive sweating during his draft combine interview.

That’s right, you read it correctly: The Suns' front office passed on Leonard with the team's 13th pick because of “how nervously he acted in a draft combine interview, when he sweated through his suit,” as The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro wrote in 2015.

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Coro’s article resurfaced leading up to this year’s NBA draft lottery as various media outlets were discussing previously chosen and passed-up draft picks by the Phoenix Suns' front office.

According to Coro, the Suns and then general manager Lance Blanks were impressed by the San Diego State power forward’s defense but uninspired by Leonard’s jump shot and the change of position as a small forward in the NBA.

“Yeah, about that Leonard pick in 2011.

Leonard did not work out for the Suns, who were picking 13th. He was clearly a defensive standout but the San Diego State power forward needed to become an NBA small forward at 6 feet 7. His jump shot was suspect but his work ethic was not. His college coach, Steve Fisher, told NBA staff that Leonard would not be satisfied by money.

There seems like there would have been much to discuss about Leonard. A gaze at his 7-3 wingspan and hands as long as men's size 7½ shoes would be an adequate prompt.

This is when it would be convenient to say the Suns did not pick Leonard because of an overabundance of rotation small forwards on the roster — Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and Josh Childress.

This is when the story could say that the Suns made the "safe" choice with Morris, although they were aware of the twins being linked to a 2009 fight between the Kansas football and basketball teams and Marcus' misdemeanor battery charge in 2012 (the Suns traded for Marcus in 2013).

But with a front office conducting its first draft in Phoenix, then-General Manager Lance Blanks' staff did not have Leonard in the discussion. Part of the Suns' knock on Leonard, beyond his perimeter shot, was how nervously he acted in a draft combine interview, when he sweated through his suit.”

-Paul Coro, The Arizona Republic

The Suns were in conversation because of their position in this year’s draft lottery, having the second-highest chance for the No. 1 overall pick at 19.9 percent, and 55.8 percent for a top-three pick.

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Even after recording the second-worst record this season at 24-58, the odds were not with them after landing the fourth pick in this year’s draft, sending them away from the likes of drafting high profile prospects such as Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or Josh Jackson.

The Suns are now left with pondering what could have been had they drafted this year’s MVP candidate and two-time All-Star in Leonard instead of current Wizard Markieff Morris. 


However, in the Suns’ defense, 14 other teams didn’t draft the 2014 NBA finals MVP, but it is safe to say that none of those franchises made the case not to draft him because of his excessive sweating, either.

For Spurs fans, all that matters is that the team made the right call by trading away fan favorite George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for Leonard, who led San Antonio in 2014 to its fifth championship.

Scroll below to watch videos of Kawhi Leonard during the 2011 NBA draft process and as a rookie with the San Antonio Spurs.


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