Trail Blazers 1st round selection (#11)
After weeks of working out many athletes and reviewing countless hours of film, the Blazers found themselves drafting Meyers Leonard from Illinois with the 6th overall pick in the Draft.
If you are unfamiliar with Meyers Leonard, here is a summary of what the kid will bring to Rip City.
Height – 7’1″
Weight – 245 lbs.
D.O.B. – February 27, 1992 (20 years old)
High School – Robinson (Robinson, Illinois)
College – University of Illinois
Position – Center
How did he become a Blazer?
Meyers Leonard was acquired with the 11th pick in the lottery portion of the 2012 NBA Draft.
Though many thought of him as an NBA prospect, Leonard originally wanted to remain in college in order to establish his degree, but family issues at home forced him to declare for the NBA draft early, thus landing in the lap of the Blazers.
As Dana O’Neil of ESPN writes:
“His heart would love to remain a college kid, “stay a kid a little longer” as he says, but the responsibilities of his life — an ailing mother, a brother in Afghanistan — dictate a more mature path.”
2011-2012 College Statistics
Just a sophomore in college, Leonard demonstrated that he has what it takes to play in the NBA during the 2011-2012 campaign.
Although he saw action in his freshman year, it was nowhere near the amount of time he saw during his sophomore season. In fact, Leonard played over 750 minutes more this season (1,018 minutes) than he did in 2010-2011 (272 minutes), thus proving he could sustain his level of play throughout an entire game.
Besides being an intimidating presence on defense and the court, Leonard is a fairly decent shooter for a man his size. During his sophomore season, Leonard hit 170 of his 291 field goals (.584) while also converting 73.2% of his free throws.
On the defensive side of the ball, Leonard had 60 blocks, 15 steals, and 189 rebounds.
Over the course of the entire season, Leonard average 31.8 minutes per game, 13.6 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game.
Meyers Leonard‘s greatest strength is probably his size and ability to grow into that size. Standing already at 7’1″ 295 lbs, he is quite the intimidating presence on the court.
Using his frame to make room for himself and his teammates, Leonard should become one of the better big players in the NBA as time goes on.
Another upside about Leonard is that he is quite a good shooter and has defensive prowess due to his size. As mentioned earlier, Leonard his 58.4% of his field goals attempted during his 2011-2012 campaign, stats that should translate to the NBA as well.
Coming out of college early, Leonard still has some development to go through before he can be considered an everyday player and presence on the court.
Added to this is the fact that he needs to add just a bit more size to be a truly dominating post player. With all the guys he will be matched up in the NBA being physically aggressive, Leonard will need to add some bulk and game maturity in order to keep pace with other teams.
Another aspect that Leonard must improve to succeed in a physical NBA are turnovers. Prone to getting overemotional at times, Leonard seems to sometimes play without a head on his shoulders, throwing inaccurate passes here and having the ball stolen over there.
As the Portland Trail Blazers continue to move beyond the Brandon Roy and Greg Oden era of team history, rookie Meyers Leonard will be instrumental in establishing a new winning mentality in Rip City.
Though Leonard will not be the immediate presence the Blazers would like, after a year or two in the NBA, he will be an intimidating force and a big presence as he continues to grow into his big frame.
Expect to see Leonard donning the headlines of NBA news in about two years.