Meyers is one of the most puzzling, if not the most puzzling prospect in this draft. Myers stands over seven feet tall with a high level of skills and athletic abilities but needs to prove he can play consistently and reach his potential.
Athletically, for a seven footer, he's off-the-charts. He is very mobile with both feet in the post, above average lateral quickness, and runs like a deer in the open court. He throws down dramatic dunks to display his vertical ability and simply honing his athletic skills should get him six points a game in the NBA.
Obviously, he has the height and while a little skinny, he is solidly developed for a center prospect at age 20. He shows solid muscle development just needs to develop his upper half. His leg base is quite developed already which is pivotal in defending the low post.
On the court, Meyers gets too frustrated too easily. Off the court, he is a model citizen that has been through a lot. His mother has a major physical disability, dad died due to circumstances, brother is overseas serving Armed Services, and they have lived very poorly. He seems to possess great maturity off the court.
Basketball IQ and want it factor
This year, Illinois was as dysfunctional as any team (including UCONN). He was severely misused in Bruce Weber’s motion offense. At the end of their season, Illinois was blowing it to a Nebraska team and Meyer’s was crying before the game was over. Many fans would question if he was soft, but after witnessing how dysfunctional this team was, many would state this as frustration that boiled over. Meyers is known as a player that puts everything into what he has and sometimes his emotions get the best of him.
Even though he possesses this and wants to win, I don’t know if he fully knows always what to do to win right now. While he can be very physical, sometimes he would not fight for low post position. I don’t know if it was frustration with a lack of touches even when fighting for it, or if he simply didn't want to extend the effort.
In this instance, all the interviews for each team thinking about drafting him are pivotal. Also, because he is a great shooter for his size, sometimes he would drift a little too far out for the jumper; this got better as the season went along so I feel there is room for hope. The Illini team really went into destruction when Brandon Paul scores 43 points against Ohio State (ironically). The team became dysfunctional as it seemed Brandon Paul tried to become the go-to-scorer, when really they should have worked as inside-out (Thibs reference here).
For basketball IQ, even though Meyers is very raw, he does show a good understanding of the game. Defensively, he usually goes straight up for blocks and at his size, that should continue at the next level as he has the frame to add a little more weight (I would not add too much as that might slow down his athleticism down). Offensively, he shows decent footwork with either foot, shows a variety of post moves, and passes very well out of the post. However at times he struggles to put everything together to make the right decision.
Overall, Meyers has a high skill level. He can shoot efficiently from mid-range, already developed solid post moves already developed, and plays well in transition.
In the post, Meyers' main go-to-move is using his right hand jump hook over his left shoulder. Occasionally, he shows a left hook to counter his right hook. Also, as the season went along, he showed a turn-around, fade-away jumper turning back to right (similar to Kevin Garnett). Very occasionally, he would do a fade-away over his left shoulder but did not look very comfortable in doing so. One of Meyers better strengths is passing out of the double team. While I don’t know if he ever will consistently be double-teamed in the NBA, it is a bonus to know that he shows great court vision.
His best transferable skill in the NBA besides the ability to run the floor, is the ability to pick-and-pop at the center position. He sets hard screens (a nice bonus) and shows a very nice jumper out to about 18 feet. If the opposing center comes up to high, he has the athletic ability to slide the pick and roll to the basket and finish. Vertically, he is explosive at the center position.
Stating all this, Meyers, while very skilled, he is very raw at the same time. While he shows great understanding in some instances, he needs to know when to stay in the low post, when to pick-and-pop, and when to use what moves in the post. He is very mechanical still and while he started to fight more as the season went along in the low-post, he should have done so more. It will take Meyers a little time to develop a post game against NBA Physical Centers.
Defensively, Meyers improved dramatically. He shows great lateral quickness and should be an asset in this game once he learns to hedge the screen, or occasionally show the ability to pick up the offensive player/creator (similar to a Joakim Noah guarding a Lebron for short spurts in the game). He has learned to go straight up more when going for a block.
However, he is still somewhat raw defensively. Too many times, he blocks shots sending them out of play instead of trying to re-direct them in play. Also, while getting better defending the low-post, he still gets pushed too easily for position. Against fellow draft prospect, Andrew Nicholson in December, Andrew got low-post position quite a few times against Meyers. Stating this, Meyers did get better as the season went along and especially showing true when playing against players such as Jared Sullinger, he will need to get much tougher in this aspect. He does need to rebound more consistently too.
Meyers would have been better off staying another year in school and becoming a top 3 pick in next year’s weak draft class, but situations propelled him to enter this year. Overall, I really like Meyers as a prospect and think he will at least be serviceable in the NBA. In the NBA today, Ronny Turiaf has been starting for the Heat, DeAndre Jordan has developed a shot-blocking identity, and Kwame Brown made a living in the NBA. I don’t see why Meyers can’t be at least someone that develops some niche in the NBA.
He has the skillset of a Brooke Lopez (not as quite developed offensively and I don’t know if he ever will but better defensively and not quite as soft) with more athleticism (athletic similar to Javelle McGee, but not quite as fluid), but a lot of rawness and gets frustrated too easily. To me, it is about placement with Meyers and how he is developed.
If I was a team that drafts him, I would be pooling all my resources to get him developed as he is a top 5 talent in this draft (not top 5 in readiness to play, but potential with size being considered). Meyers is a prospect that is very good at many skills, but has never been great at any one. In my opinion, the team that drafts him should focus on honing his defensive skills and running the court first and then developing his offensive game as he goes along. I don’t want him to focus too much on the whole game at first because I feel that will actually slow down what he can really be. Let him gain confidence in something as I feel he gets overwhelmed at times.
While he still a ways to go develop, as a NBA GM, I can’t imagine taking a good, but not great talent over this Meyers Leonard when lottery teams need to get star-type potential on their teams. I am not talking top 4 pick due to his rawness and on-court immaturity, but once it gets down between choosing the Jared Sullingers, Terrence Jones, Perry Jones III, and Tyler Zellers of the world, Leonard comes into the picture.
While they might be good players in their own rights, they don’t have the near star impact that Meyers Leonard has and those teams need game changers. On athletic ability and size alone, Meyers should at least be a serviceable big man at the next level unless he gets into real trouble. While I feel comfortable stating that a player such as Jared Sullinger has a better chance to reach his potential, I feel Meyers has the opportunity to be a more complete player at a more game-changing position and will not be a liability on defense. Even though there are certain concerns with Meyers, I don’t think they are concerning enough to state he will not play in the NBA.
In general, he's one of the more puzzling prospects and people will either say he will be a bust because of attitude or he has so much attitude. Even with scouts, it is known that some are very high on him and others are totally off the board with him. Which is one of the reasons he will slide to late teens or be drafted earlier than thought. I personally think one team will see his potential and draft him in the top 10.
With a dearth of NBA centers, Myers should hang in the NBA for quite some time even if he takes awhile to put things together. Meyers would do well on a team with some pieces and possible mentors such as the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, 76ers, or Dallas Mavericks. I don’t think he would do well in a situation such as Toronto or Golden State (even if the up-tempo speed caters to Meyers and is less pressure right away).
How does he fit with the Bulls?
First off, the Bulls will not get him at pick 29. I feel that when workouts start to develop (this will be pivotal in terms of where he is drafted), numerous scouts/general managers are going to fall in love with his athletic tools (I think he can sneak into the top 10 picks with his talent; I think he will go between picks 9-14). There are only a very few elite centers that have his skill level and athletic ability. I can also imagine some team management leery of taking on Meyers due to some of his rawness.
In my opinion, I just feel that the Bulls need definite playmakers to be consistently good. I think they need a second scorer and I don’t think anyone else on this team can be that. I do not know if Leonard is a second scorer, but I do feel that he is a good player on both ends and can be a definite double-double guy. As much as I like what Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng have done for us, I feel we need more impact game changers. I am talking very selective risks. I just don’t feel we will win a championship with Carlos in two years when Derrick Rose is fully healthy.
I feel that Meyers can make an impact at least defensively alone that will be game-changing (similar to what Javelle McGee and DeAndre Jordan did this year). If there is a way we can trade up to get him as a player, I would be very tempted. I would not draft him over a player such as Jeremy Lamb if both are available, but I would take him over other players the Bulls might be interested in late lottery such as Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross, etc…