Pacers Select Lonzo Ball's Teammate TJ Leaf in NBA Draft Amid Paul George Rumors

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2017

Mar 17, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (22) dunks the ball against the Kent State Golden Flashes in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers selected TJ Leaf out of UCLA with the No. 18 pick of the 2017 NBA draft.

The freshman was overshadowed at times for UCLA with Lonzo Ball leading the way, but Leaf actually led the team with 16.3 points per game this past year. He also added 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in his only collegiate season.

The Indianapolis Star's Nate Taylor and ESPN Stats & Info noted Leaf's Indiana connection:

Portland Trail Blazers forward Evan Turner expected Leaf to wind up with the Pacers:

"He brought so much to our team, both on and off the court, and we're certainly going to miss him," head coach Steve Alford said after the forward declared for the draft, per Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

Leaf has good size at 6'10" with the versatility to score both inside and out. He made 64.4 percent of his two-point shots as well as 46.6 percent of his three-point shots (27-of-58) on the year.

His ability to create his own looks and finish everywhere on the court ranks among the best big men in the class and would make him a valuable asset for any NBA team.

On the downside, his lack of length or lateral quickness could make him a liability on the defensive end. While he averaged over a block per game, he still often allowed easy baskets around the rim for what was a virtually nonexistent Bruins defense.

Still, his rebounding numbers were solid, and his offensive game makes up for his deficiencies.

Considering he is just 20 years old, Leaf has a chance to improve in all facets of the game.

With the Pacers, he has a chance to add valuable depth to the frontcourt. Although fans should expect him to get better with experience, the forward has the tools necessary to make an impact as a rookie.

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