Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Orlando Pinstriped Post turns its attention to the 2012 NBA Draft with a look at mid-tier draft prospects who might be available when the Orlando Magic select 19th overall.
Meyers Leonard didn't have a stellar freshman campaign for the Illinois Fighting Illini, averaging just 2.1 points and 1.2 boards in 8.2 minutes over 33 appearances. But Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress predicted the seven-footer was destined for a breakout performance in his sophomore season, and Leonard proved him right: the Robinson High product took on a far greater role, playing 31.8 minutes per game--compared to 8.2 as a freshman--and responded by averaging 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and a Big Ten-leading 1.9 blocks per game.
Walter Beeken, also of DraftExpress, praises Leonard's athleticism and mobility, in addition to his size. "Standing 7-feet tall with a long wingspan and a developing frame that should continue to fill out nicely in time, Leonard moves very fluidly for a player his size," writes Beeken, "running the floor well and showing solid explosiveness, vertically and laterally." Though not a great back-to-basket player, Leonard is nonetheless a solid offensive contributor because of his pick-and-pop ability. As his 72.9 percent career free-throw mark attests, Leonard has some outside shooting touch.
Why he fits for Orlando:
Leonard would make sense for the Magic regardless of how the situation with Dwight Howard plays out. If he commits to the team long-term, it'll need a fourth or fifth big man to sop up minutes behind Howard, Glen Davis, and perhaps Ryan Anderson if the team retains him in restricted free agency. If the team trades Howard, it'll doubtless need big bodies.
Why he's not a fit for Orlando:
Apart from Howard, the former top overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the Magic don't have a great history of developing young centers. Further, the team arguably has more pressing needs on the wings and at point guard.
Given that he's a reasonably highly touted prospect at a position of relative scarcity in the NBA, Leonard might not be available when Orlando picks 19th overall on June 28th. But if he's there, the Magic would do well to consider him. Seven-footers with Leonard's athleticism are rare, and at just 20 years old, he has plenty of time to grow and develop.