Next Thursday (June 28) marks the first time in 5 years that an Illinois basketball player will be taken in the NBA draft. The last players taken in the draft from Illinois were James Augustine and Dee Brown (remember the good ol’ days?).
He is just 20 years old, has a 7-3 wingspan, and is straight up oozing with potential. Last year Leonard led the B1G in blocks, was 3rd in rebounding and 3rd in FG percentage. His strengths include shot blocking, athleticism, ability to run the floor and an already-improved jump shot (mid-range) from last season.
After a difficult loss to Nebraska (yes, Nebraska) Leonard broke down into tears on the bench.
His body language and mental toughness are something that will be seriously questioned and something that teams really do look at. Leonard impressed everyone at the combine with a standing 30-inch vertical and other drills that highlighted his athleticism. He has a strong desire to learn and told reporters that he plays with the passion of Joakim Noah and the defensive tenacity of Tyson Chandler.
According to one draft interview, he is trying to model his current post game off of Lakers center Pau Gasol. If he can combine the games of those three guys, he just might be the ‘Gasol’ine that a certain team needs to fuel their fire.
Teams that are interested include the Raptors (8), Pistons (9), Bucks (12) and Rockets (14). The Raptors and Rockets are trying to fill the voids left by their big men, Chris Bosh and Yao Ming, while the Pistons/Bucks are seeking a big-time addition down low.
With a lot of hard work, good coaching and the right system, Leonard could become an electric threat in the NBA. If not, he may be the bust that many top prospects fall victim to.
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