PF UCLA TJ Leaf 6’10” 225 6’11” wingspan
Player Comparison: Patrick Patterson/ Mike Muscala
Why here: The Heat snag a four to space the floor. Leaf’s potential as a shooter and strong fast break player meshes well with ball dominant guards and the imposing interior presence of Whiteside.
Strengths: Scorers mentality with a diverse offensive game. Has impressive IQ and stamina/durability. Shot 47% from the three… best off the catch… has mid range dribble pull up under his belt… shows promise as pick and fade big with ability to shoot from top of key and elbow. Uses jab steps and pump fakes to his advantage, especially against bigger defenders. Has good amount of post moves… high and low post… fadeaways/baby hooks/up and under. Is a surprisingly gifted passer… finds holes and angle that are otherwise not noticeable. Active off the ball… sets purposeful screens… cuts to the hoop well… sneaks away from defenders to open corners. A very high IQ rebounder… aggressive on the glass… lots of put backs… fights for advantageous position… predicts bounces well.
Weaknesses: Cannot defend in the post at a high level, which could be attributed to his lack of lower body strength. Stands up on defense… can be put off balance with a banging body or a quick dribbler. Didn’t show many signs of a shot blocking groundwork… active hands are non existent… Doesn’t have impressive body control in air… struggles with contact on drives… struggles to out-muscle smaller defenders. Although he has the deception of being athletic because of certain offensive abilities, Leaf lacks lateral speed and sliding agility, quick reaction time, and explosiveness on help and on ball defense. Similarly, his high IQ on offense doesn’t translate to the defensive end. Weak pick and roll defender… doesn’t contain ball handler… tails away from roll man to frequently… doesn’t communicate incredibly well.
Outlook: Leaf is going to struggle a lot early in his career. His ability to stretch the floor with range and a high IQ for transition basketball will get him some minutes, but don’t expect him to develop into a dependable rotation player until he builds up some toughness and defensive intangibles. Working hard under the Pat Riley system and being forced to guard Whiteside every day in practice should help this.
Random Prediction: Follows in Steph’s footsteps, becomes second NBA player to partner with Brita. Becomes incredible landscape photographer