Yesterday I used “Could Meyers Leonard be part of the solution for the Bucks at center?” as a headline. Also I spelled Meyers without the first “e” because I didn’t do a very good job proof reading and I generally didn’t know a ton about this dude.
With that in mind: Today, I say no to the aforementioned headline question.
I didn’t want to influence your thought though, and I wanted to put in some more thought (also: research) regarding the player, the position and the purpose of Milwaukee’s next season before I decided on an actual thought and a feeling I could really believe in regarding a potential marriage of Meyers Leonard and the Milwaukee Bucks.
I’m not saying Leonard can’t be a productive player. I think he can be. And I think Tyler Zeller could be one too. They’ll both likely have careers that turn out good enough or even impressive as far as I can tell.
That doesn’t help the Bucks right now though and as far as I can tell, it’s all about right now, isn’t it? Isn’t that what this whole upcoming season is all about? Making the playoffs, shaking some cages and the like? That’s what the Monta Ellis trade was all about, wasn’t it? Now the Bucks have these two guards that can score and people often say Milwaukee’s is dynamic. So the playoffs are the goal again.
I have my doubts that Leonard or Zeller can help make that dream a reality. Not that I’m necesarily against drafting someone who could blossom eventually. I liked it when Milwaukee grabbed Larry Sanders, a potential guy, two years ago and Tobias Harris, a super young guy, last year. Those were guys who seemed like they would eventually blossom and the Bucks absolutely seemed to go with the, “We’re drafting the best guy available” thing. That’s just fine.
But it seems bizarre to run a franchise with one direction in mind and then completely disregard that direction come draft time. It seems pretty important that in this draft, especially in this draft where there’s probably a bit more talent than there hast been in three seasons or so, the Bucks get a guy who can come in and play some productive minutes.
I’m not entirely certain we’re going to see that out of Leonard. Not necessarily because he isn’t talented, but for what he needs to be to get minutes, I don’t think he can be that guy.
Milwaukee could really use an anchor of a center defensively. We saw that all season and I pointed that out yesterday. Physically, Leonard passes the eye test to be that guy. But this quote is pulled from his Draft Express profile:
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.
Hmm. Is he going to be able to handle the speed of the NBA after just two years of college right from the get go? Leonard is likely to spend at least one season missing rotations, going for blocks a split second too late and generally picking up fouls that come as a result of the NBA being the NBA.
It’s not that there aren’t any big men who have ever come in and made a difference defensively as apart of a unit right away, it’s more that I really don’t think Leonard is one of the dudes who can do that. Emeka Okafor? Yeah, he had that talent. Joakim Noah? A little bit, to a certain degree had that ability. But those were guys who played plenty of games in college, guys who came in regarded as high hoops IQ type of guys. Their ceilings were a little lower because we felt like we knew them, but they probably have both exceeded expectations because of their IQs.
Even Tyson Chandler, a player Leonard said he likes to emulate himself after, took about four years before he really started to grasp the game on the defensive side. Sure, he was making the larger leap from high school, but Chandler is a leader type. He works hard. He studies. He gets it. And it took him a while to get it.
The same generally goes for Zeller. Maybe he’s a bit more ready to the mentality and speed of the NBA, but is he actually going to be able to manage a game defensively from the center position? It took Andrew Bogut years to do that. That’s why guys like Joel Anthony and Kurt Thomas stick around. They know exactly what the hell is going on back there and where to be at all times.
Will Scott Skiles stand idly by while Leonard or Zeller make mistakes nightly that could be harming the team? Not if Leonard isn’t in the right position he won’t. Skiles showed no hesitation to sit someone who seemed to be playing very well in Jon Leuer last season when he had other players that could come in adn give the team some minutes. Surely Skiles won’t stand for playing Leonard or any other rookie just for the sake of development with the team fighting for a playoff birth night after night next season.
I’m not saying Skiles is right or wrong, I’m just saying what he’s shown he’ll do. He goes with the guys he’s more comfortable with. That’s how Ekpe Udoh started grabbing up the minutes many of us thought Larry Sanders would have late last year. Udoh knew where to be, that’s kind of his thing as a player. He rotates well and plugs in gaps. That’s what the Bucks want out of a center. Think Ervin Johnson more than Joel Przybilla if you want a somewhat relevant example.
So while Leonard and Zeller will probably be just fine in the league, I’m not sure they’ll be just fine as members of the Milwaukee Bucks. Likely not next season at least. If the Bucks want to draft another player that can play a few minutes and get some good work in practice and potentially put it together down the road, the big man could fit just fine.
But that wouldn’t exactly be a playoff push move, would it?