Prospect Profile: Meyers Leonard

The big men in this year's draft class are chock full of intrigue, few moreso than Illinois' Meyers Leonard.  The 7'0", 240 pound center didn't play a whole lot for the Fighting Illini in his freshman season but clearly improved heading into his sophomore campaign.  This year, Leonard anchored his team's front line with 30+ minutes per contest.  The center found his touch around the rim in 2011/12 and also found his way to the weight room, making him a force to be reckoned with.  It wasn't necessarily a surprise when Leonard declared for the draft in early April, but it was something of a shock to see him projected as a top half first-round pick by many prognosticators.

On the defensive end, Leonard is a disruptive force with a 7'3" wingspan.  This year, the big man swatted just under two shots per game while averaging 0.5 steals.  His length combined with his leaping ability is fun to watch in action, but the mere threat of it is what really throws off the opposition.  Leonard can contain opposing big men and force guards to stay on the outside.

Offensively, Leonard's game is a work-in-progress.  His post game still appears to be awkward and he'll have to add more moves and fakes to his arsenal in order to score effectively at the next level.  However, Leonard knows his way around the pick-and-roll game and seems fairly comfortable scoring in motion.  One way or another, he doesn't profile to be an elite scorer – his NBA dollars will be earned on the defensive end.

Where does this leave Leonard amongst centers in the 2012 class?  He's not nearly as polished as Jared Sullinger or as safe as a Tyler Zeller and it's hard to imagine him raising his stock above either player.  At the same time, he could sneak into the back end of the lottery depending on where the ping-pong balls fall in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Workouts leading up the draft will make or break his draft position.  His ceiling figures to be in the high teens and his floor somewhere in the early twenties.

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