Meyers Leonard, No. 12 (Mock)
The Bucks select an athletic 7-footer to fill the middle.
by Yaron Weitzman / @YaronWeitzman
Don’t let this year’s 31-35 record fool you—the Milwaukee Bucks are a mess. Sure, they have some nice pieces, such as Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but what’s the goal? If it’s to barely make the Playoffs and maybe squeeze out a home Playoff win or two in the opening round, then I guess the Bucks are on the right path. If it’s to build a true contender, well Milwaukee is about as close to that as I am to playing Twister with Brooklyn Decker.
Milwaukee’s problem is one of roles. That is, nearly every one of its core players is being asked to play at a level that they are just not capable of, with the one exception being Ersan Ilayasova, a restricted free agent who may no longer be in Milwaukee come October.
Brandon Jennings is not a superstar, and he never will be. He’s a good scorer, but not one on the level of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, or even Tony Parker. He’s a solid passer and decision-maker, but he will never be Steve Nash. That’s not to say that you can’t win with Jennings running your team, but he should not be asked to carry the load. Neither should Monta Ellis.
Yes, Monta can score, but he has yet to show that he can do so efficiently, and within an actual offense. On a winning team, he’d be coming off the bench and playing the Jason Terry role. In Milwaukee he’s going to be asked to score 20 points a game. The same can be said for Carlos Delfino, Mike Dunleavy, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden, a group that could be the core of an impressive bench. The problem is that only a few of these players actually come of the bench.
So what do you do if you’re the Bucks? How do you get out of this rut? How do you pull yourself out of the hell that is NBA mediocrity?
1) You need to recognize the traits that a team needs in order to contend for a title.
2) You need to swing for the fences.
And with that being said…
With the 12th pick of the SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select…
Meyers Leonard from Illinois.
If you want to contend for an NBA title, there are basically two routes you can take. The first, and most ideal one, is to somehow acquire a star. (Otherwise, your ceiling is the Atlanta Hawks, a talented team that will never reach the conference finals, and that, eventually, will have to be blown up.) The other is to build an impenetrable defense.
Drafting Meyers Leonard gives the Bucks a chance, albeit a small one, of heading down one of these two paths.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a player at this point in the Draft with more upside, which, in the Bucks’ case, is not a dirty word. The Bucks have to take chances. They have to try to strike gold in the Draft. For teams that play in cities like Milwaukee and Minnesota, the Draft is the only way to acquire a Kevin Love. Tyler Zeller will probably be a nice NBA player, and one who could provide the Bucks with enough inside help (which, after starting Drew Gooden 46 times last season, is clearly something the Bucks need) to get them to the .500 mark. Few, though, seem to believe that Zeller has the talent to turn an entire franchise around.
Leonard, on the other hand, may. What’s intriguing about the 7-1 center is the nature of his “upside.” Usually when you hear that word around Draft time, it’s referring to the idea of if a player gets better. Leonard, however, is getting better; he went from playing just eight minutes a game and scoring a total of 68 point in his freshman year, to playing 30 minutes and scoring 13 points a game in his sophomore year. It seems unlikely that a player with Leonard’s physical gifts— he was a guard until he grew six inches at the age of 15—coming off of a season where he increased his scoring by 11 points per game, would suddenly stop getting better.
And then there’s the luxury that comes with drafting an athletic, fleet-footed 7-footer who weighs 250 pounds and has a wingspan that would make Young Jeezy’s biggest fan blush. There are so many ways he can impact a game. It’s like splitting a blackjack hand. Even if he doesn’t evolves into the offensive threat that many think he can become, there’s still other Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler-type things that he can do to dominate.
And a player who can do that is something that the Bucks, somehow, somewhere, someday, are going to have to find.
|2012 SLAMonline Mock Draft|