In recent years, players who were expected to miss significant time with injury were often omitted entirely from pre-season rankings; however, despite his ACL injury, Kawhi Leonard came in 10th on Sports Illustrated's recent top-100 list.
The explanation for placing Kawhi here clearly stated that he would be top-3 had it not been for his long-term injury; however, there was no explanation as to why he was not just omitted entirely. After Kevin Durant suffered his achilles injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, Sports Illustrated removed him from their top-100 list for the 2020 season, citing his expected year-long recovery as the reason why. Kawhi is expected to have a similar recovery time, but he was still included regardless.
Perhaps the reason for still including Kawhi on this list, is the possibility that he could make a late-season appearance next season. In a recent interview, LA Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer did not rule out this possibility. If Kawhi were to return next season, the Clippers would become immediate contenders if he was able to regain his 2021 form.
In the 2021 playoffs, Kawhi Leonard was well on his way to a historically great run before getting injured. His 30 PPG average on 57% from the field had him on pace to join Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the only players in NBA history to average at least 30 PPG and 7 RPG on at least 57% from the field in a single playoff run.
Needless to say, if Kawhi Leonard returns to form, we will not see him outside of the top-5 again any time soon.