Name: Meyers Leonard
Last Week’s Stats: 4.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 50% FG
When you think about the 2012 NBA Draft, Damian Lillard comes to mind. The Portland Trail Blazers selected the floor general to be their point guard of the future, and needless to say, the selection has worked out.
Then there’s Meyers Leonard. The 7’1″ center was chosen 11th overall, and while he’s shown promise during stints of his young career, he’s yet to prove he was worthy of a lottery pick in such a stacked draft.
As it turned out, Meyers Leonard lost his job as the backup center to Joel Freeland early in the year. Joel Freeland and Robin Lopez were by far the better defenders, and while Leonard possesses a long-range shot that neither of his fellow big men have, that’s not what the Blazers needed with so many shooters already on the roster.
Before this past week, Leonard had participated in just seven games. His numbers were far from impressive in the few minutes he’d played, but he earned a chance to make up the difference when he received Thomas Robinson‘s time on Dec. 21 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
In Leonard’s defense, he’s as exciting to watch as it comes when he’s on top of his game. He can finish above the rim, he can shoot from long range and he’s a big man who can run in transition both on offense and defense.
It’s his timing on defense that makes him a liability, which is why he’s as frustrating to watch as he is entertaining.
But let’s stick to the positives. After earning the backup gig ahead of Thomas Robinson, Leonard put together quality minutes this past week. Against the Los Angeles Clippers, he scored two points on 1-of-3 shooting, but he managed to collect seven rebounds in just 13 minutes.
Against the Miami Heat, he scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting, and he tallied five rebounds along the way.
Defensively, we didn’t see Leonard collect a block, but we saw promising things when defending the rim. His rotations still need work, and his timing is iffy at best; but his ability to stand his ground and not get bullied deep into the paint is an improvement from his rookie year.
With Robinson sitting on the bench, you have to wonder which direction this narrative will play out. In an ideal world, the former No. 11 pick will turn into a solid two-way presence who can impact both sides of the floor.
However, it would ignorant to look past the idea of trade bait, as it’s possible Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey are showcasing a young big man with incredible athleticism to the rest of the Association.
Where Leonard goes from here has yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure: His potential is still promising. As long as the Blazers keep winning, you can’t argue with what the team is doing.
The big man is getting a chance to show what he can do, and if he keeps improving this season, he’ll find minutes on one team or another.