Meyers Leonard's rookie season has been filled with plenty of ups-and-downs, begging the question of what kind of impact he can have going forward. Without a true center on the roster, the Blazers need to know what they have going forward in the 7-footer.
After showing some strong play at times throughout the year, Leonard has shown his ceiling is a solid NBA starter.
Leonard definitely has the physical tools for a competent starter. At 7'1", 245 pounds, Leonard has shown he is gifted enough to impose himself in the paint. The biggest problem has been a lack of confidence at times and seemingly forgetting he's usually the biggest guy on the court.
The Blazers are at a point where they aren't far away from competing in the talented Western Conference. They need Leonard to close in on this ceiling and give them a legitimate starting center.
Damian Lillard has immediately turned the franchise around and pointed them in the right direction. Lillard, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to be the center of the team, but Portland desperately needs to start putting talented players around them.
By reaching his ceiling, Leonard will allow the team to use J.J. Hickson off the bench or let Hickson walk and use the money saved to pay other bench players. The Blazers' Achilles heel this season has been their poor production from their second-unit.
Leonard's game fits nicely among those players.
Here are the highlights from one of Leonard's best games:
In the video, Leonard shows off his mid-range game as well as his general hustle plays, like the put back jam starting at the 36 second mark of the video. His strong movement and beautiful cut at the 54 second mark also shows just how smoothly he can fit within the Blazers' offense.
His ability to knock down jumpers as well as score around the basket will help the Blazers to spread the floor even more. That's a great quality to have when Lillard is your point guard. Giving him plenty of room to operate will help the team get the most possible production out of their new superstar.
The defensively-challenged Blazers also need Leonard to use his size to become a force as a defender and shot-blocker. Playing just 14.8 minutes per game, Leonard is averaging 0.6 blocks per night.
Another quality that Leonard has shown throughout the year is his high energy level, although he also needs to improve his consistency in this area.
One of Leonard's top plays showcased this:
While the dunk is extremely impressive, the passion and activity are on another level. Those intangibles are something that every team would benefit from. If Leonard is able to bottle that fire and utilize it in smaller doses, it will be contagious for the rest of the team.
It's clear that Leonard's ceiling is becoming a solid starter, and it's up to the player to achieve this potential. If he can do so, the Blazers will have found a big piece of the puzzle.