Meyers Leonard has a chance to be a meaningful player this year for the Portland Trail Blazers
(Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.)
OK, so you have heard it. Repeatedly, in fact. But the fact remains, Leonard is going to get opportunities this season, and he has the skill set to make the most of them.
Now this isn’t to say that Leonard is necessarily going to have a “break out” year. That ship has probably sailed. But, looking at the Portland’s big man rotation, it’s clear that Meyers is going to get minutes, and he’s going to be put in position to succeed as a supporting bench player.
When Portland let Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, and Pat Connaughton go, the franchise replaced them with players that had one bankable skill; 3-point shooting. This wasn’t an accident. It was a necessary accompaniment to playing Evan Turner off the bench.
Turner is a conundrum; he’s a non-post player who doesn’t have a great shot, an unselfish player who needs the ball in his hands. Allowing Turner to handle the ball with four shooters around him is probably the best course of action, at least to start the season. And who is the Blazers best shooting big man? Meyers Leonard.
There’s really no one else on the roster to take those minutes anyway. Behind Nurkic and Aminu, you’ve got Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, in addition to Leonard. When Neil Olshey allowed Davis to leave for Brooklyn, he was banking on not only Collins, but Leonard to fill those minutes. And here’s the thing. Meyers is going to do a decent job.
I know it’s popular to hate on Leonard. He’ struggled. He doesn’t play great defense. He frankly hasn’t panned out as a lottery pick.
But let’s not let that color the fact that he has a chance to make a difference this year...finally. Just because he’s not the complete player we hoped he would be in 2012, doesn’t mean he can’t be a contributor for 12-15 minutes per game.
If Leonard can set decent screens and hit the 3-pointer at a 36-39 percent clip, he’s going to do well. Maybe he’ll never be a low-post presence, despite his physical build. Maybe he’ll never be a consistent rebounder, especially on the offensive end. But, if Portland’s first preseason game is any indication, is focused on shooting more 3-pointers this season, and that’s one thing that Leonard can do, and do well.
Maybe it’s time for Portland’s fan base to reset the expectations on Meyers. He might not make giant strides, but he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs. Let’s hope he makes the most of it.