Meyers Leonard

Southeast Notes: Leonard, Sheppard, Wizards, Hornets

Meyers Leonard has recovered from a severe ankle sprain he suffered in February, but his role with the Heat has completely changed, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Leonard was Miami’s starting center in 49 of the 51 games he played, but he has only been on the court for nine minutes in the playoffs.

“My team knows this, and our coaching staff knows this,” Leonard said. “I would do anything to be out there. And I’d be lying if I said that I’m not competitive as hell. I wish I was impacting the game on the floor. I’m not, but as a person and as a player, I want what’s best for everybody.”

Leonard was still recovering from the injury when the hiatus began in March, which caused team facilities to shut down and forced a change in his rehab process. Miami also switched to a smaller lineup after acquiring Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala at the trade deadline. Coach Erik Spoelstra informed Leonard of his reduced role before the restart began.

“There’s just two things that I won’t ever let be questioned and that’s character and work ethic,” Leonard said. “Every day when I walk through the door, I’m going to be a great guy, a great teammate. It’s not fake. So I’m trying to make my impact now from the sideline.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard is a believer in analytics and he hopes to use data to help the team lessen its risk of injuries, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. More teams are turning to load management to avoid overextending players during the regular season, and Sheppard thinks numbers can play a role in that. “Rather than have to react to an injury, you could see possibly something on the horizon and take that player out of harm’s way,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you shut him down, but maybe they play less in a game, or maybe they don’t play at all, or maybe they have active recovery days.”
  • In a separate story, Katz teams with David Aldridge of The Athletic to assess the Wizards‘ current situation and find a way to rebuild the franchise. Aldridge notes that Washington used its $9.2MM mid-level exception to sign four players last summer and suggests that the entire amount should be targeted to one player this year, possibly Derrick Jones Jr., Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Maurice Harkless.
  • With the third overall pick and two selections in the second round, the Hornets might benefit more than most teams from the decision to delay the draft until November, writes Danny Thompson of Sports Illustrated.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Daniel Theis, Celtics, 28, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2019

Heading into the playoffs, no one quite knew what the Celtics’ big man rotation would look like. There’s no doubt right now which center coach Brad Stevens trusts the most. Theis has played heavy minutes when he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble. He averaged 30.1 MPG in the seven-game series against the Raptors and was productive (10.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG) while keeping turnovers to a minimum (1.0). He’s averaged 33.5 MPG thus far against the Heat. Moreover, the Celtics’ staff trusts that Theis can switch onto a variety of players defensively. His $5MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s hard to imagine Boston would let him go.

Marcus Morris, Clippers, 31, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $15MM deal in 2019

Morris had an interesting and controversial journey through free agency last summer. He reneged a two-year agreement with San Antonio and signed a one-year, $15MM pact with the Knicks. When the Clippers acquired Morris at the trade deadline, he was viewed as potentially the final piece to a championship puzzle. The Clippers crashed and burned in part because Morris was a non-factor as the series against the Nuggets wore on. In the last two games, Morris averaged 6.0 PPG and shot 3-for-14 from the field. He was better at being an irritant than a difference-maker. It will be interesting to see if his price tag drops this offseason.

Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 31, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $65MM deal in 2017

Ibaka had a strong postseason run while coming off the bench. He averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 1.3 BPG in 22.8 MPG while making 51.1% of his 3-point attempts. Ibaka turns 31 on Friday but he’ll receive his biggest birthday gift in the coming months when the Raptors or some other suitor hands him a lucrative deal. ESPN’s Bobby Marks believes he will get full $9.3MM mid-level exception offers from playoff teams without cap space but that Toronto may offer a one-year deal at $18MM to keep him and preserve cap space for next summer.

Monte Morris, Nuggets, 25, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4.66MM deal in 2018

When Malik Beasley was dealt to the Timberwolves in February, Morris became the clear-cut backup to Jamal Murray. He’s been a key piece off the bench during the Nuggets’ dream run to the Western Conference Finals. Morris averaged just 16.6 MPG against the Clippers but scored in double digits four times during the series. He’s also played smart and poised, making more steals (10) than turnovers (8) in 297 minutes during the first two playoff series. Morris has a $1.66MM non-guaranteed salary for next season. That seems like a very big bargain.

Meyers Leonard, Heat, 28, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $41MM deal in 2016

The Heat have received significant contributions from a good chunk of their roster during their surprising carpet ride to the Eastern Conference Finals. Leonard hasn’t been among that group. Leonard, who made $11.3MM this season, was a starter until February when he suffered an ankle injury. He’s been relegated to cheerleading status during the restart, appearing in two seeding games and one postseason game. He was mainly a second-unit player in Portland before this season and he’ll have to compete for a rotation spot wherever he lands next season.

Heat Notes: Olynyk, Leonard, Butler, Haslem

As the Heat try to maximize cap room for next summer, they have a decision to make on their backup centers, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami HeraldKelly Olynyk has a $12.2MM player option for next season, while Meyers Leonard will be a free agent after making $11.3MM this year.

While it’s generally assumed Olynyk will opt in rather than test a market where few teams have cap space, Jackson suggests the big man could be tempted if his agent learns there are teams willing to offer a three-year contract starting at the mid-level exception of around $9MM. If Olynyk does opt in, Jackson expects the Heat to either keep him and let Leonard leave or try to trade Olynyk to a team with cap space and work out a cheaper deal with Leonard.

Leonard started Miami’s first 49 games, but lost his spot in the rotation after suffering an ankle injury in early February. He made his playoff debut Friday night, going scoreless in nine minutes.

“It was a great feeling to be back out there and I still have some time,” Leonard said. “I’m more than prepared.”

The Heat have $86MM committed to 10 players for 2020/21, Jackson notes, including $5.2MM to Ryan Anderson, who was waived under the stretch provision. Jackson assumes one-year deals in the neighborhood of $20MM for Dragic and $10MM for Crowder, bringing the total salary to $116MM, which is $16.6MM below this year’s luxury tax line. He notes that money could be used to re-sign Leonard and Derrick Jones Jr. or to pursue another free agent big man such as Enes Kanter, Paul Millsap, Tristan Thompson, Markieff Morris or Aron Baynes.

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Jimmy Butler‘s 30-point outburst in the Game 3 comeback solidified his reputation as a leader in big moments, Jackson notes in the same story. Butler joins Dwyane Wade as the only Miami players to score 25 points in the second half of multiple games in the same postseason. “He is the ultimate competitor,” Leonard said. “Everybody wondered, ‘Oh, well is he too competitive?’ He’s a winner. And he expects the same level of focus, effort, energy, mental focus, from his teammates. And you are seeing him not only do it himself, but he’s bringing the best out of others, as well.”
  • Bam Adebayo continue to gain notice from other players around the league, Jackson adds. Appearing on J.J. Redick‘s podcast, Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell said he would choose Adebayo if he were picking a team for the next 10 years.
  • Coach Erik Spoelstra said veteran forward Udonis Haslem was “controlling the huddles” Friday in an effort to inspire his teammates, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. “Our culture is probably UD screaming at everybody in one of the timeouts,” Spoelstra said. “And us liking it.”

Heat Notes: Closers, Butler-Dragic, Benched Players, Injuries

The Heat have found playoff success thus far with a closing lineup comprising Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. This closing lineup resolved the last 7:57 of the team’s Game 1 victory in Miami’s quarterfinals series against the Pacers (posting a +10 plus-minus), plus the final 7:45 of the Heat’s hard-fought Game 2 win (where the group finished with a +1).

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praised the groups effectiveness on both sides of the ball. “Defensively, they’ve been good,” Spoelstra said. “Offensively, we’ve been able to keep it simple and get it to either Goran or Jimmy to make the plays and you trust that they’re going to get you something good, a clean look.”

There’s more from South Beach:

  • A key duo within the Heat’s closing lineup, guards Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler, have benefited from their playing minutes together being expanded from 14 MPG to 22.5 MPG in the postseason, according to Manny Navarro of The Athletic. Butler and Dragic have become a very effective dynamic duo for Miami. “One of my all-time favorite teammates,” Butler said. “We just connect.”
  • Heat power forward Meyers Leonard and rookie point guard Kendrick Nunn both have yet to crack Miami’s postseason rotation, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel details. Nunn started for the Heat all season. Though frustrated about the benching, Leonard voiced optimism that both he and Nunn would see action soon. “[S]taying ready is important, so when I get my opportunity I’ll be prepared,” Leonard said. “There’s going to be a moment that we need Kendrick Nunn, make no mistake.”
  • Heat forwards Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. have both been listed as questionable to play in Game 3 of their series against the Pacers on Saturday due to ankle injuries, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link).

Eastern Notes: Gordon, Heat, Pistons, Knicks

Magic head coach Steve Clifford told reporters on Wednesday that forward Aaron Gordon played 2-on-2 after practice, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Clifford also mentioned that Gordon’s availability for Game 2 against the Bucks will be determined by how his hamstring is feeling on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Gordon missed Game 1 on Tuesday with a left strained hamstring, which he suffered back on August 5. This season, the Magic forward is averaging 14.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 3.7 APG.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra answered questions on Wednesday about the benchings of center Meyers Leonard and rookie point guard Kendrick Nunn. Both players received DNP’s for Monday’s Game 1 against the Pacers. “Everybody’s all in on that, the purpose of what we’re trying to get accomplished here,” Spoelstra said (h/t South Florida Sun-Sentinel). “We’ll need everybody. … It’s something that we talked about as a team. And it’s Game 1 … Obviously, Kendrick is a major part of our team. We will need to get into our depth at some point.” Leonard, who was the team’s starting center, fell out of the rotation when the seeding games begin. Nunn, however, started in five games in the bubble. In those contests, he averaged 10.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG.
  • Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said on Wednesday that he does not expect Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin to participate in the team’s voluntary camp next month, though both players could attend if they want to, per James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, Casey hopes young players view it as mandatory.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post writes about the Knicks‘ odds of landing standout point guard LaMelo Ball. According to the Post, Ball’s preference is to go to New York. However, the Knicks only have a 27.6% chance of landing a top-three selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. In fact, New York has a 62.8% chance of getting a pick between 6-10. If that happens, Ball will likely be off the board, and the team could opt to draft former UNC point guard Cole Anthony.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Nunn, Riley, Leonard, Future

The Heat held their first team practice since March 10 on Friday, though veteran guard Goran Dragic revealed in a conference call this week that two players were missing: Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Miami, as Jackson writes, currently has two unidentified players recovering from COVID-19. Head coach Erik Spoelstra declined to comment on how many players attended Friday’s practice, only adding that the team had a “full gym” for the session.

“Hopefully Bam can come and K-Nunn and we can be a whole team and make some damage,” Dragic said. “Some guys are not here. We are eager, expecting them to come, hopefully to be healthy and we can all start practicing together.”

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr., who tested positive for coronavirus toward the end of June, has fully recovered and is with the team in Orlando, Jackson notes. Miami will look to build on its high-energy practice as it shifts its focus toward a July 22 scrimmage against Sacramento.

“We had a good workout, looked like a Miami Heat practice, had a bunch of extra energy to get out,” Spoelstra said. “Guys enjoyed being around each other. You could feel the genuine enthusiasm.”

There’s more out of Miami today:

  • Meyers Leonard appears to have fully recovered from an ankle injury sustained in early February, Jackson notes in the same story. Spoelstra mentioned that Leonard is a full go, is ready for contact, and is moving great. He’s averaged 6.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 20.1 minutes per game this year, shooting 43% from 3-point range.
  • Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg will remain in south Florida during the NBA’s resumed season, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Vice president of basketball operations Adam Simon traveled with the team to Disney, as league rules mandate that each team has at least one senior basketball executive on site.
  • Winderman examines in a separate story whether the team has enough assets to put together an attractive trade package instead of waiting for free agency in 2021. Miami has long been linked to stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo, both of whom are set to become free agents at the end of next season.

Heat Notes: Free Agent Targets, Butler, Olynyk, Restart

Though adding reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to their exciting roster remains the top goal for the Heat in 2021 summer free agency, they have many other viable options if Antetokounmpo is unavailable or uninterested, according to The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson.

Even with the prospect of a slight decline in the 2021 NBA salary cap due to the coronavirus pandemic causing a league revenue loss, the Heat should still have the cap space to add a maximum-salary free agent next summer to go along their intriguing core of All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, plus developing rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro.

Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo, who trains in South Florida during the offseason, would be a great fit on the wing along with Butler, Jackson notes. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie number among Jackson’s other preferences for free agent additions to the Heat in 2021. Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Thunder guard Chris Paul may be available via trade.

There’s more news out of South Beach:

  • The Heat’s top free agent acquisition of 2019, All-NBA swing man Jimmy Butler, has returned to Miami this week in anticipation of a league restart as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald reports.
  • With just eight non-playoff games left for the top 22 teams, the Heat have officially clinched a playoff berth, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). This means that Heat big man Kelly Olynyk will earn a $400K playoff bonus written into his contract.
  • The Heat’s status for the season restart was explored in another piece from The Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman. Production of Heat game broadcasts will be handled away from the games to accommodate COVID-19 personnel restrictions. Center Meyers Leonard, who injured his ankle during the Heat’s last game to this point, on March 11, has recovered and will be ready once play resumes.

Southeast Notes: Leonard, Brown, Crowder, Hawks

Heat big man Meyers Leonard is set to reach unrestricted free agency at the end of the season, but the 28-year-old is comfortable with his current situation in Miami, he explained this week.

Leonard, who was acquired by the Heat in July of 2019, was set to make $11.2MM and has started in all 49 of his games with the team this season.

“I’m in a good place here in Miami,” Leonard said on a podcast with John Canzano of The Oregonian, as relayed by the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. “I really feel as though I help Jimmy (Butler) and Bam (Adebayo) in a lot of ways. I space the floor, I give them opportunities to attack driving lanes and get out in transition. Again, I don’t mind taking the physical demand. I don’t mind boxing out every single time. If the ball comes to me, fine. If we get it, that’s great and that’s what I want.”

Leonard is among multiple Heat players set to reach free agency this summer, along with Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr., Udonis Haslem and Solomon Hill. Kelly Olynyk holds a player option worth $13.2MM for the following season.

Leonard has fit in seamlessly with the Heat, spreading the floor alongside Adebayo while shouldering some of the workload on the glass. He’s averaging 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per contest, shooting an impressive 43% from deep.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

Southeast Notes: Dragic, Leonard, Wizards, Hawks

After starting all but 15 of his previous 487 regular season games since 2012, Goran Dragic was caught off guard when Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra asked him last season about coming off the bench on a permanent basis in 2019/20, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel relays.

“As soon as I heard this, I was a little bit in shock, you know,” Dragic said during an Instagram Live appearance this week. “Shocked. Mad. It was full of emotions going through my head.”

Admitting the idea was “really hard to accept,” Dragic said that he eventually came to terms with it and tried to turn it into a positive, aiming to be one of the NBA’s very best sixth men. It has been an effective lineup change for the Heat, who had been having their best season since Dragic joined the club in 2015. The veteran point guard, meanwhile, was enjoying a nice bounce-back season, with 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in his reserve role.

“At the end of the day, I think that was a great change for me, for my career,” Dragic said, per Winderman. “And I’m really happy how I responded — to the players, to Coach Spo, to the trainers. They always stood next to me and helped me. The only thing I had to do was embrace that role and I did it.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In his own Instagram Live appearance this week, Heat center Meyers Leonard spoke about getting comfortable in Miami after seven years in Portland, adding that he continues to rehab the ankle injury that had sidelined him before the NBA’s hiatus. “I’m feeling much, much better,” Leonard told Heat TV host Jason Jackson, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “Obviously, I had an injury there right before the season was suspended. And it was bad. I think most people were aware of that. But I’m always incredibly, incredibly focused and I take a very professional approach. So I guess if there’s a silver lining for Meyers Leonard, I’ve had more time to rehab and the rehab’s been very good.”
  • As the Wizards prepare for the draft and free agency, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington explores the team’s biggest needs, naming rim protection and perimeter defense as areas the team must improve. Hughes also suggests it could make sense to target a high-ceiling player in the draft, something GM Tommy Sheppard mentioned as a possibility earlier in April.
  • In a conversation with Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, former NBA executive Seth Partnow says that he’d be wary of offering a maximum-salary extension to John Collins this offseason if he were running the Hawks. Partnow would be comfortable with a deal in the four-year, $80MM range, which may not be enough to lock up Collins before he reaches restricted free agency in 2021.

Heat Notes: Bosh, Simon, Leonard, Front Office

Chris Bosh will not be inducted into the Basketball Hall 0f Fame in 2020, but Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel believes Bosh will be elected in 2021. This year’s crop includes Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan, so it’s not as if there aren’t deserving candidates ahead of Bosh. Still, the former No. 4 overall pick, who won two titles with the Heat, had the résumé to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • In a separate piece, Winderman wonders if any Heat executive besides VP of basketball operations Adam Simon will be coveted by Chicago as the Bulls make front office changes. As Winderman notes, Miami has given Simon promotions every time an opposing franchise attempted to pry him away from South Beach, so it’s unlikely that the organization won’t at least attempt to keep the executive in town.
  • Heat big man Meyers Leonard, who was nursing a severe ankle sprain heading into the NBA’s hiatus, said he would have likely been ready to return by the postseason if it had proceeded as scheduled, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald relays. Leonard is rehabbing in his home with the assistance of the Heat’s medical team.
  • Erik Spoelstra can’t envision himself coaching anywhere but with the Heat, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald relays. “Micky and Pat created this culture,” Spoelstra said of owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley. “Some people might think they need to venture out on their own to create their own image. I do not have any of those kind of feelings. I feel a sense of purpose by carrying this culture on and this legacy to future teams. It’s what I enjoy. It’s what fills my cup up. I want to keep this going as long as I can. It doesn’t feel like a job.”