Hopes, Expectations and Meyers Leonard

What should we expect or hope to get out of Meyers Leonard this season? Well, since the 2000 NBA draft, 18 centers have been selected outside the top five but in the lottery. Here’s the list (Scroll to the bottom for the shortened version):

Joel Przybilla (2000)
Chris Mihm (2000)
DeSagana Diop (2001)
Nene Hilario (2002)
Chris Kaman (2003)
Rafael Araujo (2004)
Andris Biedrins (2004)
Robert Swift (2004)
Andrew Bynum (2005)
Patrick O’Bryant (2006)
Mouhamed Sene (2006)
Hilston Armstrong (2006)
Joakim Noah (2007)
Spencer Hawes (2007)
Brook Lopez (2008)
Greg Monroe (2010)
Cole Aldrich (2010)
Bismack Biyombo (2011)

Average draft position for the group was 9th. By my count we have:

  • 4 complete, out of the league in under 5 years style busts (Araujo, Swift, O’Bryant, Sene)
  • 5 guys who have under-performed based on expectations (Przy, Mihm, Diop, Armstrong, Hawes)
  • 2 too early to call but not looking great (Aldrich, Biyombo)
  • 2 with up and down careers (Kaman, Biedrins)
  • 5 star or borderline star players (Bynum, Nene, Noah, Lopez, Monroe)

Looking at the rookie numbers for these players in order to glean a reasonable expectation for our 7 foot great white hope makes for ugly reading. Averages for the group:

51 games, 15 minutes per, 4.6 points, 3.7 rebs, 0.7 blocks, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.9 turnovers, 2.1 fouls on 46% shooting.

To just throw everyone in together might not be fair though – he might not be very seasoned but Meyers isn’t a project like straight from HSers like Bynum, Diop and Swift, an 18 year old Biedrins or new to basketball types like Sene and Biyombo. Lopez, Monroe, Noah and even Aldrich were all more celebrated/accomplished college players. The guys from this group who most resemble Meyers entering the league are probably Mihm, O’Bryant and Hawes.

Still terrifying

Of those, O’Bryant is the clear nightmare scenario. If every rumour about Meyers’ immaturity was true and that led to sulking and laziness his rookie year, maybe he slips down that path. Seems unlikely though.

Hawes was a pretty darn crappy player as a rook (and mostly ever since) – inefficient on offense and horrid on D. Didn’t really bring anything else to the table that made you sit up and take notice either. Still a shit ton better than the Patty O option.

Strangely enough, Mihm is probably the closest and most likely model for Meyers’ to follow as a rookie. Mihm played 20 minutes a game as a rook, registering close to 8 and 5 a night, with a block and a bunch of fouls thrown in. Similar rare agility for a 7 footer but never really developed into anything more than a backup. Wouldn’t be the worst rookie expectation but you’d hope the career arc would break away soon after.

Also worth noting that college sophmore Meyers’ stats look very much like college sophmore Chris Kaman’s, and I could see how they might end up being similar players in the league. I doubt Meyers’ ever shows the scoring flair Kaman did as a junior in college and when featured in the NBA but other physical and style of play similarities certainly exist.

My most hopeful projection is that Meyers can come out and play like 20 year old Biedrins. Meyers played 1290 minutes in college as an 18/19 year old, while Biedrins accumulated 1384 NBA minutes in his 18th and 19th year. Both play a similar style as 20 year olds – athletic finishing on offense allows them to be efficient despite rudimentary post games, possess the frame and shot-blocking instincts to be good on D but still learning the fundamentals, above average but not great rebounders. 20 year old Biedrins put up 9.5/9.3/1.7 on 60% shooting before going on to peak over the next two years as a 19 PER double double guy the following two years. He played 29 minutes a game despite averaging 3.7 fouls, partially due to the utter lack of other options at the 5 on that GSW squad (sound familiar?). Anything close to those numbers and minutes would be a great success for Meyers as a rookie, in my eyes.

We can only dream

Shortened version: Late lottery centers have tended to suck or turn into stars since the turn of the century. Meyers isn’t a totally raw project like Bynum or Swift but he isn’t very similar to polished bigs like BroLo or Moose either. It’s likely he falls somewhere in the Hawes/Mihm/Kaman range but hopefully he’s more like Biedrins at a similar age.

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