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Blazers Top 100: Perseverance Rescues a Lottery Pick

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A look at the 100 players and personnel that have influenced the Trail Blazers’ 50-year history.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.

No. 92 | Meyers Leonard

Games Played with Blazers: 393 Regular Season | 25 Postseason

*PTS: 5.6| REB: 3.7 | FG%: 47.9 | 3PT%: 38.5

52.3% shooting, 42.4% from the arc in 2018-19 NBA Playoffs

*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland

Joined Club: 2012 NBA Draft, 11th overall selection

Departed Club: July 2019, traded with Maurice Harkless in multi-team deal for Hassan Whiteside

Place in History: Meyers Leonard spent seven years in Portland mired in conflicting currents. Drafted 11th overall in 2012, he inherited high expectations, made higher sandwiched between fellow lottery pick Damian Lillard and second-round scorer Will Barton, both of whom made dramatic impacts early.

He was, at heart, a project big man, a seven-footer caught in a transition between eras, torn between the block and the arc. He spent his first two years muddling around the interior before his best asset—three point shooting—began to shine through. In almost every season from three through seven, 40-50% of his shot attempts came from distance. As his three-point percentage crept towards, then over, 40%, he became a weapon.

Even so, Leonard never quite found a comfortable home on the floor. The Blazers never figured out whether they wanted him to “ice” down into the lane, defending like their more traditional centers, or whether they would take advantage of his superior mobility by having him jump out and roam the floor. They tried him at power forward, then back at center. He struggled with shoulder injuries, then to find a spot in a newly-formed lineup that had jelled in his absence.

For most players, this would have added up to dejection and a quick exit from the rotation. Every time you counted Leonard out, though, back he would surge. His combination of athleticism, quickness, and shooting touch wouldn’t let the team keep him off the floor forever. There was always one more glimmer. A player who could easily been dismissed as a bust given his draft position and trajectory actually ended up playing 418 games for the franchise, shooting better from the all-important arc than almost every big who came before him.

Leonard also rode the wave of social media interaction, developing a following online not just for himself, but for his wife, who may actually prove the better shooter of the two. His public spirits remained high as the couple developed a following in Portland beyond what you’d expect from his play.

Ironically, Leonard’s best game in Portland may have been his last. He scored 30 on 12-16 shooting as the Blazers exited the 2019 NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. Two months later, he was traded for veteran center Hassan Whiteside. But endurance, Twitter presence, and providing an example of how to extend a career through turbulent circumstances are enough to earn Leonard the 92nd spot on Portland’s Top 100 list.

Discuss your thoughts about Meyers Leonard below, and check back multiple times every weekday as we continue to countdown to No. 1.