Meyers Leonard currently wears #11 for the Portland Trail Blazers, and it matches the sequence in which he was selected in the 2012 NBA Draft. Leonard was taken in the lottery, #11 overall, out of Illinois and no Illini has been taken in the NBA Draft since. Demetri McCamey, Jereme Richmond and Brandon Paul all earned combine invites, but none of them were drafted.
Malcolm Hill may or may not be selected this June, and if he does here his name called, it won’t be until the mid-to-late second round.
However, Meyers Leonard is an interesting, fantastic Illini basketball story however and gives the Illinois fan something else to follow this winter when seeking a change of pace from speculating on the future of John Groce, and who might be replacing him.
Leonard is about to get more opportunities in the Rose City (although “Rip City” is the thing now), and clearly he’s ready. Yesterday the Denver Nuggets acquired Mason Plumlee as they officially traded for the versatile big, sending another center Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in return.
NBA on TNT Analyst Brant Barry on the expanded role for Meyers Leonard after the trade of Mason Plumlee:
“Portland will play a lot through the center position. Leonard will be asked to do a lot of things up there, of course we know he can shoot the three ball but he’s going to have to make decisions with the ball and be as careful as possible to make sure they have good possessions.”
It’s going to be a far cry from his days in Champaign-Urbana when Bruce Weber primarily used Leonard to run screens and set up Trent Meacham jump shots in his motion offense. Leonard’s NBA career has gotten off to a really slow start, and it’s fair to assume that Weberball may or may not have had something to do with that. However, it’s going to be starter minutes for Leonard from here on out.
Barry also offered up his explanation on why Portland made the deal:
“They did not meet some of the expectations they had [for themselves] and struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor – when the offense has been good, the defense has been bad. They sit four games worse off than they were last year [at this point].”
Meyers Leonard started and played 23 minutes, scoring 10 points in Portland’s blowout loss to the Utah Jazz. He came in averaging 16.2 mpg and 5.4 ppg. Leonard knocked down two of his four three point attempts in the contest, and that’s going to be key to his finding his way in the league.
Leonard is currently shooting only 36% from the field and 33% from behind the arc this season; both are career lows. However, this season brings Leonard his first opportunity to really give the league a true, full “sample size.” He’s never started more than 10 games or played more than 1,332 minutes in a single season.
A little more than halfway through, with the All-Star break coming up, he has six starts and 760 minutes. It’s fair to say that Meyers Leonard will get the chance to truly show the NBA who he really is now.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and Bold, contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication, CGTN America, WGN CLTV News and KOZN.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks