Jan. 04, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts talks with Portland Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard (11) during the third quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Moda Center. The Sixers won the game 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Meyers Leonard, future uncertain with Chris Kaman

Signing free agent center Chris Kaman was not a perfect move for the Trail Blazers, but it was probably smart given their lack of bench production and sweet beards. I have spent too much of my personal time wishing Meyers Leonard would shave his head and grow a 2008 Drew Gooden octo-beard for intimidation purposes, so, on the whole, I feel like I personally came out on top. Kaman is about two bumpy seasons removed from legitimate relevance, so who’s to say he will not experience a renaissance year in Portland? He will certainly get the nod ahead of the aforementioned Leonard, and that is great news for the Trail Blazers… for now.

I can’t shake the feeling that Leonard has been prematurely accepted as a sunk cost. The Trail Blazers have more or less set aside their 22 year old offensive center in favor of a 32 year old offensive center on a one year lease. That seems like a questionable settlement between “win now” and “lose later,” but if we called it “lose fewer games in the short term to achieve pseudo-relevance at the cost of developmental focus” the statement loses podium appeal. Kaman will not make the Trail Blazers a championship team (bold prediction, I know), so why not invest even slightly in Leonard as long as we are throwing defense to the wind?

Leonard has reached the point in his career where his future is the wrong kind of murky. A few years from now, most of us will either be saying “Why didn’t the Trail Blazers give him a chance?” (a la Jermaine O’Neal) or, “Why did they draft him in the first place?” (a la Nolan Smith). I am of the opinion that an athletic, 7’1” big man with beautiful shooting mechanics will pan out sooner or later. Leonard may never be an all-star, but he will absolutely be useful. That is all we can ask from him at this point, but the timing never seems proper to make the request. With Kaman in town, Leonard’s developmental urgency has been further delayed.

Dec 18, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Joel Freeland (19), forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and center Robin Lopez (42) react on the bench during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Trail Blazers 120-109. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This is especially concerning when Leonard’s contract status enters the picture. The Trail Blazers have to exercise his team option in order to keep him next year, in a year where they will already be scrimping and saving to re-sign LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Robin Lopez. It is difficult to imagine that the Trail Blazers will be on board with designating a cool $3 million to a player they haven’t bothered using in three years. Kaman’s presence seemingly guarantees that third year of inactivity (barring injury), potentially sealing Leonard’s fate one summer from now. Granted, a lot can/will happen between now and then, so there is no need for alarm just yet.

The Trail Blazers have four centers on contract for the 2014-2015 season (Lopez, Kaman, Leonard, Joel Freeland). I could see that changing at the February trade deadline. My fear is that Kaman has created a venn diagram with the circles “young talent” and “trade fodder” in which Leonard occupies the middle. When the time comes that this is pertinent, I’m not sure that I will be okay with it. Leonard is too much of a question mark to ignore, but he remains such because Portland has done so. Forcing him further back (or even away) is a self-defeating exercise in futility that needs to be remedied, not perpetuated.

The way I see it, Kaman is good for the Trail Blazers right now, but in a ‘dessert before dinner’ kind of way. The Trail Blazers are so caught up in instant gratification that they may be spoiling something far more important. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to have Kaman here—especially for cheap, but I worry about the cost beyond the books. I am not ready to give up on Leonard (possibly my own flaw). If he doesn’t get his shot soon, he won’t get his shot here. Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are: “It might have been.”



Tags: Chris Kaman Free Agency Meyers Leonard Portland Trail Blazers

  • Albin Kampfer

    I think they need to package a couple of those guys at the end of the bench and see if they can get something better.

  • Pamela

    Let’s see how Meyers does in this year’s Summer League play. It will be nice to see him out there more than 3-5 minutes at a time. If he can only quit with the petty foot-shuffling travel fouls. There is potential, but unlike the very expensive Batum, who we stick with year after year “waiting on the come,” we should give Meyers a lot more PT and training.

  • Brooke Frazier

    This article is pretty lame – I feel like the author has never watched the Blazers. Meyers has had plenty of chances to earn his spot on the team — if nothing else this will motivate him even more to play a bigger role when’s he out on the floor. The blazers need help in the middle and definitely need help from the bench & their not gonna get it waiting and hoping! Glad this author has no say!

    • Draftdog

      Yeah, plenty of chances, three minutes at a time. Get serious. He steps on the floor knowing the first mistake he makes his butt will hit the pines.

  • Draftdog

    Well David, you said it all. The Blazers’ neglect goes clear back to Meyers rookie season. Let’s face it Stotts is not Popovich. Not even close, and I am not talking about just Leonard. The fact that Olshey has let Stotts get away with poor talent development and poor defensive focus has left me doubting him also.

  • Draftdog

    Stotts threw away the perfect opportunity to develop Meyers. His rookie year was a throw away year. The Blazers said it themselves. They new they would not win many games. Stotts did a fantastic job of winning games, but completely failed Leonard. He was the eleventh draft pick on a team that was destined to be in the lottery again. He should have been given 20 to 25 minutes a game minimum right out of the gate and continued the entire year. He would have learned. He would have developed. Would they have lost more games, probably but hell they tanked the last part of the season anyway to save their draft pick, which I might add they wasted on McCollum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I hope they trade him to the San Antonio Spurs. He will come back and kick their butts.