In 2015 Meyers Leonard went from playing spotty minutes here and there to a player Portland Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts seemed to rely on towards the end of the season. He also became something of a folk hero; can he be seen as a valuable addition to a Fantasy Basketball roster in 2015-2016?
Rotowire offered this 2012-2013 Fantasy Basketball Projection for Meyers Leonard.
While not set in stone, the 11th pick in the 2012 draft seems to be the frontrunner for Portland's starting center this season. The 7-foot-1 Leonard may be pushed around at times as a rookie, like he was during Summer League, when he averaged 10.5 points (on 56 percent shooting), 8.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks over four contests. He should contribute boards, swats, an above average field goal percentage, fair free throw shooting, and the occasional double-double.
The funny thing about 2012 was this; Meyers Leonard was actually ranked by some ahead of Robin Lopez who wound up becoming a Trail Blazer in 2013-2014. Leonard played a career high 1206 minutes averaging 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and less than 1 "swat" per game. He even recorded on "double-double" in 2012-2013 but for the most part the #11 pick of the 2012 NBA draft went largely overlooked by Fantasy Owners and began the 2013-2014 outside of the top 200 Fantasy Basketball rankings.
The 2013-2014 was a big disappointment for Leonard and Fantasy Owners and Rotowire had this to say prior to the 2014-2015 campaign.
Whether it was the lack of playing time or his inability to make any strides as a defender, Meyers Leonard took a sizable step backward in his second year in the league, averaging 2.5 points (on 45-percent shooting) and 2.8 boards in nine minutes per game. Even when he garnered more consistent run after the All-Star break, the 11th selection of the 2012 NBA Draft experienced a reduction in overall production - 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in nine minutes per outing - while appearing in 19 of a possible 29 games on the way to 40 games played. One would think facing lesser competition, as the 22-year-old did at the Las Vegas Summer League, would improve his prospects, but a shoulder injury resulted in merely 6.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist, and 1.0 block in 28 minutes per contest. In actuality, the bane of his existence, and his biggest hurdle to NBA success, is an inability to give out contact while avoiding a foul. Until his career mark of 5.6 fouls per 36 minutes turns around, Leonard will find it nearly impossible to be handed playing time with Chris Kaman and Joel Freeland in the picture.
Statistically speaking the 2014-2015 was better than 2014 but wasn't as productive as his rookie season except for one thing; Meyers Leonard can shoot the three ball. More importantly Leonard can make the three ball to the tune of 42 percent of them. These triples aren't a one here one there either; he shot 112 of them in 2015 making Leonard the number two center eligible three point shooter in terms of percentage (42%) and three pointers made (1.0) in the NBA for 2015.
2015-2016 Fantasy Basketball Projection
Leonard was largely overlooked by standard weekly league Fantasy Basketball owners (1 percent owned in the majority of Fantasy Basketball Leagues) largely due to his lack of playing time and let's face it; outside of the Portland Trail Blazers organization who knew the Dude could knock down triples like he did at the end of 2015?
We know he was the second best at his position from beyond the arc in the NBA but what many Fantasy Basketball projections won't tell you is this; Meyers Leonard became a better rebounder in 2015. Maybe not a statistically better rebounder in terms of numbers but a better rebounder because he got stronger and better at grabbing contested rebounds averaging 1.8 per contest. He isn't Anthony Davis but he's not supposed to be is he? Those numbers are encouraging and if he improves could mean more minutes for Leonard
Projecting Leonard's 2015-2016 Fantasy value isn't an easy task either. He's just one of a handful of Portland Trail Blazers currently under contract for the coming season. Starting center Robin Lopez is an unrestricted Free Agent; backup Chris Kaman is still under contract but could be let go for a million bucks and the future is still undecided on whether Joel Freeland will be returning to the Trail Blazers or not. These are the players currently standing in Leonard's way for minutes.
Two things are important to a Fantasy Basketball owner; minutes played and having players contributing to as many categories as possible. Leonard finished 2014-2015 ranked 57th in minutes played among center eligible Fantasy Basketball centers and as mentioned previously finished number two in three pointers. His rebounding totals left him 51st in the NBA among center eligible players and his blocks, something Fantasy Basketball experts counted on from Leonard left him at #70 among the center eligible.
Center/Power Forward eligible players with Leonard's skill set (three pointers) usually go in the first three rounds of a Fantasy Basketball draft (Chris Bosh, Kevin Love) no matter how many teams are in a Fantasy Basketball league. Due to his lack of minutes played Leonard won't be drafted that high that's for sure nor should he be. Normally in a ten team head to head league I won't draft a player I don't believe will get at least 25 minutes per game. In a 12 team or higher league my Mendoza Line for minutes played is roughly 20 or so minutes per game.
The other thing Fantasy Basketball owner look for is value. In an auction draft the likelihood that Leonard won't get drafted is fairly high; a savvy owner believing in Leonard's potential might be willing to pay a buck for his services in the hopes that Leonard will get 20-25 minutes a night and knock down a couple of triples. If that did indeed happen it would be money well spent. If it doesn't than the owner isn't out very much.
In other words Meyers Leonard is a low risk high reward type of player. After witnessing Leonard's end of 2015 I'm convinced that Leonard is going to be valuable to any Fantasy League team in any format. Coach Stotts lets him shoot the triple and as I said before there aren't many centers who do this....and I think he's worth a late round flyer to find out if Meyers Leonard does indeed go from Folk Hero to Fantasy Basketball star in 2016.