Nov 1, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard (11) stretches before the start of the game against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Meyers Leonard Project

The 2012 NBA Draft has turned into a small gold mine for the Portland Trail Blazers. With the sixth overall pick, the Trail Blazers selected a point guard from Weber State who many thought would be a later draft pick. Damian Lillard has proven everyone wrong who ever doubted his talent and NBA readiness. He is a bright young star in the league and is definitely in discussions as a Top 10 point guard. Will Barton, who was selected in the second round and 40th overall, has started to take shape as a serviceable reserve player. He has shown flashes of brilliance and brings a burst of energy to the team and the crowd. The success of Lillard and Barton is where the gold stopped flowing for the Trail Blazers.

With the 11th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Trail Blazers selected Meyers Leonard. Leonard had just finished up his sophomore year at Illinois and declared for the NBA Draft. He was named Honorable Mention All Big-10 at the end of his sophomore season after averaging 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds. Athletic big men do not come around that often and the Trail Blazers saw potential in Leonard. Sure he was young, raw, and clumsy but the Trail Blazers front office liked what they saw in their crystal ball.

Ever since Leonard joined the Trail Blazers, he has been viewed as a project. Could the coaching staff turn this athletic 7-1, 245 lbs big man into a effective NBA center? The common answer among fans is “no,” while some might say the jury is still out on Leonard’s future. Does Leonard have a future in Portland or should the Trail Blazers move on?

Leonard played in his first 2014 Las Vegas Summer League game on Tuesday. He missed the previous two games due to a shoulder strain. He racked up 21 minutes of playing time, which was the least among the starters. The Trail Blazers committed 23 fouls as a team but Leonard had seven all by himself. He was 3-6 from the field for seven points and didn’t corral a single rebound. Not great numbers from a first-round draft pick with two years experience.

After two years of practice, work outs, summer league, and regular season playing time, how is Leonard still not contributing? Leonard has everything going for him: athletic, tall, strong, and a decent shooter for his position. Why is it such a struggle for him to put it all together on the court? To deem Leonard a successful project seems to be a long way off.

It’s understandable why the Trail Blazers have held on to Leonard this long. He has an expiring contract next summer and can be used as a bargaining chip. Yet at this point, is he really considered an asset? If the Trail Blazers tried to deal Leonard right now, they would probably not receive much interest. It’s difficult to swallow but they must stay the course.

Leonard has put in the time and the work needed to succeed. The Trail Blazers must find a way to help him put it all together and play within himself. He is young and has all of the right attributes on paper. This is the most important summer of his career and he knows it. Only time will tell how the Meyers Leonard project unfolds.



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Tags: Damian Lillard Meyers Leonard Portland Trail Blazers Will Barton

  • Trevor Westerdahl

    When it was disclosed that Meyers had a shoulder injury and would miss the first two summer league games, he talked about how he had been spending time in the gym, getting in shape, and had been working on his game, during the off season.

    He then played horrible in his first game and stated that he got “winded” and “gassed” and then reasoned that it was his inability to practice for the few days he was suffering through his shoulder injury. Not only is it impossible to loose endurance for a few weeks of inactivity, endurance should actually peak with up to two weeks rest.

    Simply put: it showed that his time in the gym was unsuccessful and indicates that it was far more likely that he has had light/limited workout sessions. Not a good sign.

    Now consider that it is nearly unanimous consensus that Meyers has shown zero growth in three years. He still is completely lost and clueless about where to stand and what to do. If I were the Blazers, or for that matter, Meyers himself, I would have sought a recognized one-on-one trainer to build his game. I would tell Meyers he is not going to be playing any minutes, and won’t be allowed to participate in team activities until he demonstrates that he has a trainer, and a plan to develop his skills starting with positing and awareness.
    It is obvious he has done too little to truly better himself. He needs a real trainer right now. Since he, and the team, have failed to setup anything to develop him at all in three years, he is likely just an expiring contract and another sad case of what happens when players do more talking about development than actually working on development.

    Did you ever see the videos of Damian Lillard’s workout sessions prior to ever being in the NBA, or ever being considered for the draft? It is easy to see why Damian came out running.

    Let’s be honest: Meyer’s has failed to be self-aware, has failed to better his game, and it is very likely that he has done far too little to actually better himself. I personally think his training has been extrememly weak and virtually non-existent.

    BTW: After all that… I truly believe that one good trainer, having just three months, could fundamentally transform Meyers into a serviceable player. Letting him strengthen his bad habits by adding minutes in NBA or summer league games is a waster of time. He needs a real trainer now as his time is more than running out.


      If I were the Blazers I wouldn’t of drafted him to begin with. I mean after all these years the Blazers still cannot get it right when it comes to Centers and basically from their track record, doubt they ever will. This guy after watching him clearly is not NBA Material no matter what anyone might say. He should be completely EMBARRASSED by how BAD he portrays the position. Drummond should of been picked by making a move to get a couple spots higher to select him. Myers after his last showing and his LITTLE GIRLY Injuries he’s always using as EXCUSES to why he can’t play is Pathetic at best. The Blazers are a STUPID Organization and have NO FAITH in them ever hoisting a Championship Trophy especially with Allen as their Owner.

      • Stan Williams

        YOUR just an IDIOT! That OBVIOUSLY KNOWS NOTHING about BASKETBALL. Why don’t YOU get out there is your so TOUGH!