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Basketball philosophy

2012 NBA Draft Scouting Analysis: Meyers Leonard – An all-star talent, but is he too soft?

with 2 comments

Previous analyses: #1 – Anthony Davis

Continuing my look at 2012 draft prospects, Meyers Leonard is a relatively new name among the talked about players due to a late growth spurt in high school and a slow freshman season keeping him off the radar.

As with the Davis analysis, I will break down Leonard’s guaranteed NBA skills, NBA skills that he may be able to add but it’s not a guarantee, and the skills he is unlikely to have. A player hits their upside if they have all their able to add skills, they hit their most likely scenario if they have some of but not all their able to add skills, and they hit their downside/floor if they only have their guaranteed skills.

Guaranteed NBA skills:

–          Hands around the basket

–          Shotblocking

–          Useable outside shot

Leonard should be an automatic offensive threat around the basket with great hands and a 7’1 height to give him the space to get these shot. Leonard FG% is 57.7%, a good sign out of an NCAA prospect. Leonard is blocking 2.0 shots a game in college, that doesn’t make him Anthony Davis, but combined with his length and mobility that makes it likely he will be able to be a threat protecting the basket in the NBA. He has an outside jumpshot, the question is whether it will be average or great in the NBA.

NBA Skills that aren’t guaranteed, but may be able to be learned:

–          Back to the basket shot creation

–          Strong midrange shooting/Pick and pop capability

–          Pick and roll screening/rolling to the basket

–          Above average big man passing

–          Post defense

Where most of Leonard’s upside comes is in the post. Leonard is already showing a degree of skill backing down defenders and can finish with hook shots with either hand – using his length to release at a high elevation. The combination of his size and hands give him upside in that area. To become a great post player he has to become larger physically. Leonard has a wide set of shoulders and has put on weight already in the last year, indicating it’s possible he gets larger.

If his jumpshot become a real weapon, Leonard has a chance to be a great pick and pop option due to the elevation on his shot. You can look at the way Marcin Gortat uses his midrange game as a comparison for Leonard’s shooting if it develops into an elite weapon. Leonard also has the potential to be a screen and roll finisher with his athleticism and mobility and ability to get above the rim. If Leonard had a true mix of post ability, a knockdown outside jumpshot and pick and roll ability, he could be an all-star caliber offensive player resembling Lamarcus Aldridge. Coming out of college Aldridge’s size, athleticism and skill level was very similar to Leonard’s. They also both had question marks regarding their toughness and average rebounding numbers. Both were regarded as committed teammates with solid character, but had yet to show as much aggression on the court. Leonard also shows very nice passing hands in college.

NBA skills that are unlikely to be learned:

–          Above average rebounding

–          Face-up isolation scoring

One concern with Leonard is rebounding, as he is averaging 8.0 rebounds in 30. minutes a game. This isn’t a great number, but it isn’t devastating either, especially if he plays power forward in the NBA. Players like Lamarcus Aldridge and Nene can play at an all-star level in the NBA only averaging 7-8 rebounds a game, that’s what Leonard may have to hope for.

Getting back to the skills Leonard is unlikely to learn, due to his size and weight he will likely not have the first step to be an explosive face-up isolation player. His offensive potential will rely on post ability and taking defenders outside.

As a result, my upside, most likely scenario and downside:

Upside: 20 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks a game. A legitimate go-to second option offensively due to an post skill and outside shooting combination. Great passer for a PF/C. Is able to set screens and play as both the pop shooter and roll man beside a playmaking guard. Meets his physical talent as a rebounder and shotblocker. A complete player. Statistical comparison: Pau Gasol

Middle ground: 16 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 blocks a game. A useable but not dominant inside and outside offensive option. Uses his length and hands to score in the post against single coverage. Can hit outside shots if open but doesn’t use it as a go to. Is weak at screen and roll/pick and pop plays. Average rebounder. A valuable starting center. Statistical comparison: Marc Gasol

Downside: 13 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block a game. An enigmatic starting center, with post skill and outside shooting but a weak and inconsitent motor, and a reluctance to play into contact. Weak rebounder and defender despite length. Statistical comparison: Chris Kaman in a down year

The popular choice for the #2 ranking in the 2012 draft behind Anthony Davis, is Andre Drummond. I’ll have more on Drummond soon, but in short I believe Leonard has similar offensive potential but as a post player to Drummond’s Amare like face-up power PF game, with both having a similar length of route to reach that upside. Then I trust Leonard’s basketball IQ and court vision/passing, and his character and commitment to the team on the defensive end, more than Drummond’s who is somewhat of an enigma so far.  But the bottom line is roughly, I could see Leonard being Lamarcus Aldridge as soon as I could see Drummond being Amare Stoudemire. And of those two, I prefer Aldridge on a winning team. I also believe Leonard’s floor is higher due to the more developed skill level he is presently showing. It’s not a huge gap, but enough to trust picking him more.

Overall draft ranking – #2

Written by jr.

January 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I think the major flaw in this system of analysis is your projection for floor. I’m pretty sure the floor for Leonard is a D-League player, not a pretty productive NBA-er. That’s not a knock on him personally, but better prospects have fared worse in the NBA.

    Having a ‘guaranteed NBA skill’ is about more than how good that skill looks in a few college scenarios. Will he catch up to the speed of the NBA from a mental point of view? How is is positioning? Will he take good shots? Will he display enough effort to be able to use his tools against far better competition? I don’t think that Leonard has shown enough of the mental aspect to warrant this ranking, especially given his bad freshman year and limited history of success.

    Dude looks the part physically, though. I’ll give you that.


    January 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm

  2. Thanks for the comment

    I have a hard time seeing Leonard’s floor being that low. There just isn’t enough legitimate athletic 7 foot players in the league. 7 foot pieces of lard like Darko and Kwame and Kaman are not only in the league, but have been extremely well paid over and over again. I personally think Leonard is going to be able to fit in any offense’s starting lineup as a finisher due to his skill level right now, even if it’s as the 4th/5th option, and if you’re long and mobile you should be able to make a defensive play once in a while. I believe that’s enough for a bottom 10 starter in the league judging by Cs currently occupying starting positions (Mozgov, Darko, J Anthony, J O’Neal, Biedrins, BJ Mullens, Amir Johnson, C Hayes, etc.) I’m a bit higher than some on the player Leonard is right now, I don’t really see him as a body only as someone are projecting him as, I think of the gruop of Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Meyers Leonard and John Henson, Leonard has the most developed offensive game at the moment


    January 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

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