2012 NBA Draft: Portland Trail Blazers Eyeing C Tyler Zeller & Meyers Leonard

Kristian WinfieldCorrespondent IIIMay 29, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Tyler Zeller #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks dejected in the locker room as he answers questions from the media after they lost 80-67 against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Final at Edward Jones Dome on March 25, 2012 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

As illustrated in their 28-38 finish to the regular season and missing out on the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers biggest needs in this upcoming offseason are a point guard—preferably a defensive-minded, pass-first, Rondo-esque guard—and a similarly defensive-minded center.

Blazers Insider and Oregonian writer, Joe Freeman, revealed the roster for Portland's pre-draft workouts on May 28:

The #Blazers 6-player workout will include: Tyler Zeller, C, UNC; Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois; Garrett Sim, G, Oregon ... (cont).

— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) May 28, 2012


... Casper Ware, G, Long Beach State; Kent Bazemore, G, Old Dominion; Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse.

Portland's got a lot riding on whether or not they luck out on May 30 in the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. They currently hold the rights to the Brooklyn Nets' top-three protected first-round draft pick. That means that if the lottery comes and the Nets don't land a pick at three or better, the Blazers retain the rights to their pick.

If the Blazers win the rights to their draft pick, the best it can be is No. 6, and the worst it could be is No. 9. Portland also has their own lottery pick, which at best can be No. 11, and at worst can be No. 14.

Now that we've cleared their draft situation up, let's compare their two center prospects:

Meyers Leonard (C, Illinois)
2011-2012 Stats:
31.8 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.9 BLKPG.

Illinois' Meyers Leonard has the potential to replace what Portland once had—interior defensive prowess. Just turning 20, Leonard led the Big Ten in blocks and was No. 11 in all of college basketball in field goal percentage, shooting 58.4 percent.


With the right development, Leonard could be a home run pick in the lottery, but the Blazers haven't had much success with centers in the draft. He's a bit raw offensively, but his defensive ability more than compensates.

Tyler Zeller (C, North Carolina)
2011-2012 Stats: 28.2 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.3 BLKPG.

UNC's Tyler Zeller, on the other hand, is more of a "you know what you're going to get" player. With a functional mid-range jumper and a decent low-post repertoire, Zeller will range between an okay and a good player in the NBA. Many compare him to Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes, but he should turn out a bit better.

Zeller isn't as savvy on the defensive end, but he's an excellent rebounder, and can stretch the defense with his mid-range shooting.

If you were the general manager of the Trail Blazers (a currently vacant job, by the way), which big man would you choose? Leonard, who could turn out to be a monster on defense, or Zeller, who can put points up in the paint?