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Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Meyers Leonard

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag


  • Measurables: 7-foot-1, 245 pounds, sophomore center from Illinois
  • Key Stats: 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.9 blocks per game, 58 percent shooting
  • Projected: Late lottery/mid-first
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

I have no problem saying that I think the NCAA is lame. Even lamer, are mouth breathers in the media who think they are equipped to say when a college kid should or should not go pro. I’m not going to do that here. Meyers Leonard is an intriguing prospect because he’s big and athletic and young, even if he’s the type of player who might elicit “he should’ve stayed in school” type of reactions. I think most NBA teams would like to see a prospect like Leonard stay in school, simply because he’s kind of an unknown right now. Playing on a team that under-performed, for a coaching staff that was lame duck most of the season at Illinois as most knew sometime around mid-season that Bruce Weber wouldn’t be back, Leonard didn’t have overly impressive numbers or dominance to match his physical tools. Selfishly, NBA teams like to see players like that stay in school so they can either excel and build their stock or, more likely, get exposed and see their stock fall.

The player, in this case Leonard, is a first round pick right now, which means a guaranteed NBA contract, so going pro for him is a good decision. For me, guy who watches some college basketball and tries to assess prospects’ fits with the Pistons, it is hard for me to tell how equipped Leonard is for the NBA, even if physically, he looks like he can be a solid or better NBA player.

Pros for the Pistons

The Pistons need size, defense and athleticism, and Leonard possesses those traits. He blocked about two shots per game for Illinois and could be a good rim-protecting presence as a pro.

Leonard was inconsistent at Illinois, but one of the things that suggests he has some untapped potential is he’s late to the frontcourt game. He was a guard most of his basketball career until a late growth spurt saw him shoot up to above seven feet tall. He still moves like a guard at times, he has a face up game and he’s pretty athletic. If he’s the player the Pistons end up with, I expect that he’ll make contributions in a reserve role. He’s probably not the immediate impact player that they could use, but I’m confident he might be able to help with proper development.

The good news for the Pistons is that his biggest weakness is offense. With Greg Monroe shouldering most of the load offensively in the post, that’s less of a concern for them than it might be for other teams.

Cons for the Pistons

He still needs to add strength if he’s going to become a big minutes post presence. Leonard was also pretty inconsistent at Illinois. Now, that can be explained away by the tumultuous environment he was playing in, but this season Lawrence Frank didn’t show much patience for the few players on Detroit’s roster whose energy waned significantly at times. Austin Daye is a perfect example — his confidence was down at the beginning of the season, his production suffered and he quickly got buried on the bench. Leonard and Daye are different players, but he did have some spells this season where he wasn’t as assertive or aggressive as he could’ve been, and I’m not sure how much patience Frank would have if that continued in the NBA.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

While Leonard’s play this season has been a revelation, he’s doing it on a team that’s been in a tailspin for the past month and half. Illinois beat Ohio State on Jan. 10 and since then has lost 11 of 13.

Leonard has been solid in many of those games. But he’s disappeared in plenty as well. Teams love his combination of size and athleticism. But is he ready for the NBA? He still needs serious polish in the low post, and his lack of focus concerns scouts.


As we’ve mentioned before, Leonard’s physical tools make him a rare and very intriguing prospect defensively, especially as his frame continues to fill out. He did a better job denying deep post position this season and generally displayed a good effort level, which combined with his size and length, makes him an effective one-on-one defender on the interior, as players have trouble scoring over the top of him.

His excellent agility for a player his size should also help him defending pick-and-roll sets, giving him the ability to hedge and recover quickly. A big key for him defensively will likely the mental side of things and how well he can focus and bring consistent energy on each possession and pick up on team defensive concepts.


Leonard is a very nice prospect for the center position in the NBA … Has really blossomed in his sophomore year and is just hitting his stride and was not a big factor in his freshman season … There really aren’t a lot of weaknesses in his game … He should look to establish an offensive identity and continue to polish his all-around game … With his potential, he’s sure to get some looks in the lottery.


His game is not entirely ready for the NBA, but his body is. 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. He still misses home. His town, population dwindling and worn down by a worn-out economy, needs a hero. He wants his college degree, but his family needs the paycheck. It is a pack mule’s burden borne by a man-child, heavy enough to topple most people. That’s where those shoulders come in. They don’t belong to most people. Meyers Leonard is a lot of things — talented and stubborn, smart and starved for praise. Above all, he is responsible. “I want to be a kid for as long as I can be,” he said. “But there’s a lot on my shoulders. My mom is in a lot of pain. My brother is overseas. All of these people, these fans, they want us to be good. People ask me if I’m going to the NBA. There’s just a lot of stuff right now.”

(Seriously, read that ESPN.com story, it’s great)

What is the best thing Meyers Leonard does for his team?

Jeff Kirsman (follow him on Twitter) is the sports editor for The Daily Illini, Illinois’ student newspaper, and Max Tane (follow him on Twitter) is the assistant sports editor (this is a combined effort by them):

One question looms more than others when measuring Meyers Leonard’s NBA potential: What can prospective NBA suitors expect from Leonard when the seven-footer couldn’t even muster a double-double last season while facing opponents the majority of which were shorter than him?

It’s difficult to gauge Leonard’s draft potential due to the inadequacy of his supporting cast and now-fired head coach in Bruce Weber, though to say he is anything more than a project would do a disservice to any team’s scouting report. You can’t teach tall or athleticism, which Meyers brings to the table in spades, but it wouldn’t be unimaginable for Leonard to admit that an at-home situation involving a sickly mother, deceased father and brother in the marines – rather than his capability to bang bodies with the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum – factoring into his decision to forgo his last two years of eligibility. He is not ready for the NBA.

Whichever team does draft Leonard, however, will receive a player who was the best player on the floor for the Illini when fed the ball consistently. He has an outstanding motor on both ends of the floor, which was shown throughout the season as he got the best of big men like Robert Sacre and Jared Sullinger (twice). He hasn’t filled into his frame, partly because of an Anthony Davis-like growth spurt he experienced in high school. He developed plenty of guard skills before he hit seven feet and has the potential to be a more productive version of Javale McGee.



  • Apr 27, 20125:32 pm
    by vic


    but i’m warming up to the idea of drafting Meyers.

    • Apr 30, 20121:24 pm
      by BIGMARV


      Me too either him or Zeller its time for a 7 foot starter

  • Apr 27, 20125:35 pm
    by vic


    might as well go for the gold. a 7 footer thats not built like a stick, not stiff, can block shots, grew up playing guard. that could pay off, and move Monroe to PF

  • Apr 27, 20125:43 pm
    by Tiko


    If we stay at 9 we need to trade for another pick in the mid 1st. I’d use Stuckey to get us that pick and another future 1st with protection for the other team

    Draft Perry Jones and Henson/Leonard and I’ll be happy

  • Apr 27, 20125:59 pm
    by djunak


    It’ tough to draft a project like him right now for Detroit. I sure would be nice to have a player with such a high ceiling as he does. JoD has being patient Daye and Stuckey, I think this is a risk they need to take.

  • Apr 27, 20126:01 pm
    by djunak


    JoD will never trade Stuckey, just like he will never let go of Prince.

  • Apr 27, 20126:13 pm
    by Coach_Ackley


    I think if Big Ben comes back for 1 more season then taking a shot blocker like Meyers Leonard or John Henson would be a good move where we might end up picking cuz you know Ben will have them in the weight room putting on weight and muscle to play at a high level in the NBA…..

    • Apr 28, 20129:38 pm
      by tarsier


      As has been commented on before, Ben hardly takes on such a trainer role. He is a great example and is willing to take under his wing those who take the initiative and put in the effort to seem worth his while. But he will probably not be the impetus behind a young player developing a major work ethic.

      • Apr 29, 20125:11 pm
        by Chris H


        That is true, but everyone in the Pistons organization knows the value of having Ben on the team.  If there is anyone in the NBA who would be more suited to help out Leonard in life and on the basketball court it would be Ben Wallace and Greg Monroe.  They also have difficult home lives, and if I remember correctly, no fathers.  They would be excellent examples of what Leonard should look to emulate outside of basketball.  Also going against those two everyday would only help him develop.  Detroit is not that far from Leonard’s home, and he could probably afford to move his mother and if things work out eventually his surrogate family to him.  I think he could be a good pick for Detroit for a lot of reasons both on and off the court.

  • Apr 27, 20126:32 pm
    by Stuckey and Whoever


    Still growing into his frame and he already has a NBA body!  Played a lot of guard in high school, but defends well and has a excellent motor.  I like this guy more and more I see him.  I would take him over Sullinger and Henson.  I think he has potential to be the steal of the draft.

    • Apr 27, 20126:55 pm
      by sop


      Yup. Really close between Henson and Leonard. Leonard’s maturity and post moves are definite issues, but he already has a better body than Henson by a huge margin and looks like he’ll continue to put on meat.

  • Apr 27, 20126:52 pm
    by Bygdygod


    If Maxiel comes back this year he an Bynum combine for 8.5 million in Expiring contracts. 5 to max 3.5 to Bynum. They will be great trade bait next year. Pistons are beginning to have real assets that other teams may make good offers to us. The following year BG an CV are 21.7 mil in expiring contracts! So next year scratch n fight for 7th 8th playoff seed Show your a team on the rise an maybe the following can attract a good free agent. I would keep BG for next year as I think he makes good 3guard rotation with stuckknight. Maybe he really brings it next year an challenges for 6th man award?(possible). The lottery pick shld be at this point someone who can play right away an show potential (like BK) as a BIG whether center or PF. If the opportunity arrives in the draft to move up an get a guy maybe you include Prince? Jerebko ? daye+macklin? maybe at nine barnes drops?(possible). Maybe they can pick up another 1st rd pick? But they have great flexibility an don’t have to make a draft day deal as there position is gettin more favorable because of the upcoming 2 years with the big expiring contracts coming.

  • Apr 27, 20127:22 pm
    by Brock


    God GS won their coin toss so that’s means they’ll probably draft big with the 7th pick. Hope they pull off an Udoh and blindly pass on the guy we want/need.

  • Apr 27, 201210:49 pm
    by Corey


    The more I see about him, the more I think Leonard is the guy they should draft. 7-1 athletic not built like a stick already a good defender and high upside? If he’s still there at 9 or 10 grab him. We need a guy that will let Monroe play PF. This is that guy, and could become a star.


  • Apr 28, 20126:34 am
    by DG


    Unless they luck into one of the top three picks of the draft, I think it could come down to Tyler Zellers or Meyers Leonard.  Zellers if you want a more polished player now with less potential or Leonard if you are willing to wait for more later.  I agree that Leonard could fit well next to Monroe because of offensive deficiencies.  But he does shoot free throws pretty well for a big.

    There’s another big in the draft that had a late growth spurt (AD).  Not saying Leonards as good.  He’s not.  But having some guard type skills makes him more palatable and gives the Pistons more flexibility down the line.  I think he’s a pretty good fit with nice upside.

    I don’t think he’s a star, but the Pistons have three guys that can score (Knight, Stuckey and Monroe).  They just need to compliment those guys with role player types.  Leonard can rebound and block shots and isn’t a black hole.  I think he would be an asset.  More importantly, he’s a different kind of player than what they currently have.

  • Apr 28, 20121:59 pm
    by MrBlockedShot


    I think it’s gonna come down to Zeller or Leonard, unless we get a top-three pick in the lottery. Both guys look good. In any case we’ll most likely get a seven footer and move Monroe to the PF possition which should be good for both. Hopefully we finally get a true center again and do start rebuilding the team.

  • Apr 28, 20122:23 pm
    by Nick II


    I only watched a few of Ill games this year, but what I can say is Leonard is not soft.He will fight for position down low. I can see him as a Marc Gasol type center in a few yrs.

  • Apr 28, 20124:38 pm
    by Coach_Ackley


    Well sounds like most if not all of us agree that the pistons should draft Meyers Leonard.. His upside is greater than his down side and he is the type of athletic and defensive minded center we need to pair with Monroe going forward……

  • Apr 28, 20127:19 pm
    by gordbrown


    The real question of this draft at this point is which team that finished ahead of the Pistons will jump into the top three. My money is on the Timberwolves, which would give Carlotte two of the top four picks. I can’t wait to see that.

    • Apr 28, 20129:41 pm
      by tarsier


      NO has Minny’s pick, not Charlotte.

      • Apr 28, 201211:27 pm
        by gordbrown


        Sorry you are correct. I keep having to remember that the team in New Orleans used to be in Charlotte.

  • Apr 29, 20129:16 am
    by djunak


    I would like to see Detroit draft Leonard and then trade into the first and get Royce White both are a bit of a gamble but Detroit is much more solid then a few years and should be able to get the most out of these two. White has top ten talent could be a very good three/four.

  • Apr 29, 20125:18 pm
    by vic


    the more I think, the more I like Leonard. 
    Athletic, not stiff – 7’1, 245. You know who else fits that same profile? Tyson Chandler.

    Thinking from a playoff/championship perspective – I’d rather have a 7 footer in full bloom than an undersized power forward in full bloom (unless he is a Dennis Rodman – type). Having a talented/athletic, 7 footer is worth the risk. 
    Looking at the contenders in the playoffs, we have a size disadvantage.

  • Apr 29, 20127:42 pm
    by Corey


    I’m personally so tired of always watching the Pistons be undersized and trying to overachieve against physical limitations.  We’ve had Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman – which is kind of like lightning striking twice in the same spot. I loved them both, but what are the odds we are going to get a third undersized but yet somehow incredibly dominant defender on the roster?
    Just imagine, if they drafted Leonard, our front line could soon look something like:
    Leonard 7-1, 255-260 lb and highly athletic, defensive-oriented center
    Monroe 6-11, 250-255 lb power forward
    Jerebko 6-10, 230 lb small forward
    This is of course assuming Leonard fills out a little more over 1-2 years as a pro.
    But look at that: there’s not a team in the league that’s significantly bigger on the front line. Even the Lakers would only be bigger by about 20 lbs at center (and an inch shorter), and one inch taller at PF.   If Leonard turns into a player, that group would dominate most teams in the paint.
    I’ d so like to move beyond 6-7 centers (Maxiel) and 205 lb small forwards (Prince, Daye).

    • Apr 30, 20128:09 am
      by vic


      i totally agree.  I dont see any Rodmans in this draft. Faried was a Rodman type last year, but I dont see any this year. Henson is a small possibility… but most people see him as an energy guy, not a defensive superstar. He’d have to put on 30 pounds. Im leaning toward Leonard

    • Apr 30, 20123:05 pm
      by Tom Y.


      I’m totally on board, he’s slightly larger than Chandler was when he came into the league, and the large lineup sounds great – and a Prince/BG/CV/Max(/Ben?) bench would be very good too (though probably the league’s most overpaid by far). Size+mobility+upside – sounds like we can’t not draft him if he’s there. 
      Obviously he does have some question marks but so does everybody else at this point. I’d take him over anyone not in the top 3 (including Drummond).

  • Apr 30, 20127:05 pm
    by Coach_Ackley


    If we do indeed draft like 9, 10 11, or lower then Leonard will be the best prospect on the board because of his talent and skillset and me to i’m tried of being over matched with size when we play the bigger teams we just can’t compete like that plus Leonard has 2 things you can’t teach which is his size ” 7’1″ and he’s atheltic…..

  • May 1, 201210:47 am
    by vic


    couple more reasons to choose Leonard over Henson:    1Leonard has a better FG % while Henson played with the best pg in the nation.  This is probably because he is stronger, with more fundamental skill.      2.  Leonard  played a bigger role than Henson in the paint. Henson got to be a support role for Tyler Zeller. If Leonard had less to focus on  with offense, perhaps he could produce more on defense with his size and shotblocking.         3. Leonard is younger. He’s a sophomore that didnt really play his freshman year. This year was really just his first step. A big leap may be coming next. Henson was a junior that has gained 40lbs in 3 years. Leonard prrobably hasnt put on his weight yet.

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