In a trade that sent away 3 fan favorites (Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Selby) and a future first-round pick, there’s a lot of noise around Memphis about who exactly is Jon Leuer and what exactly is it that he does.
Before we look at how Leuer will fit into the Memphis Grizzlies offense, here are some quick notes to familiarize ourselves with him:
- Played four years at the University of Wisconsin
- Averaged 16.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game his last 2 years in college
- John Hollinger had Leuer ranked as the 4th best big man in the 2011 draft
- Drafted 40th overall in the 2011 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks
- Career averages of 4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpb, .489 FG%
- In 8 games for the Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers D-League affiliate), Leuer averaged 19/12/2 while shooting 51% from the field and 46% from three.
To make it clear, Leuer isn’t here to directly replace Mo Speights play or production. In fact, Leuer may not see the floor unless Memphis' bigs get into foul trouble. The last few games Speights playing time had dipped while Darrell Arthur's increased. And if DA remains healthy over the course of the season, Jon may see minimal playing time unless he jumps ahead of Hamed Haddadi in the rotation.
To best get a feel for how similar Speights and Leuer are I compared Speights’ 2012-13 season and Leuer’s 2011-12 season since that is where the minutes per game are the closest. Per-36 minutes, Leuer averaged 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field while Mo averaged 14.1 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 42% from the field.
The team isn't losing much offensively as both players do the same thing offensively. Since Leuer got most of his playing time during his rookie season in Milwaukee, I asked Frank Madden over at Brew Hoop about Jon as a player as these were his thoughts:
Offensively he makes good use of his touch as both a spot-up guy from mid-range as well as with a nice little turnaround in the post--his 45% from 10-15 feet and 40% on long twos speak to that.
Those are solid numbers compared to the rest of the bigs on the team. This year Speight's numbers were almost the same as Leuer's: 42% from 10-15 feet and 44% from long twos. I sat and watched footage of Leuer's 2011-12 season and his fit will most likely be in the pick and roll offense where Mike Conley and Tony Wroten can hit him in stride to shoot open jumpers.
He's also been working on his three-point shot and if his 46% (7-15) in the D-League can somewhat transfer to playing in the NBA, that can help his case of getting on the floor more.
For a team that struggles offensively, Leuer could help them, but Frank noted that he isn't the best defensive big man:
His lack of bulk makes him vulnerable against post players, but he posted excellent opponent stats against power forwards. The numbers are pretty ugly against centers, though that's not terribly surprising. A mediocre rebounder in college, Leuer was predictably poor in that department as a rookie.
If he takes Speights place in the rotation he'll be the backup center and he simply can't struggle defensively or at rebounding. Working with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph should help him get better along the boards.
We got a quick two minute glimpse of Leuer last night in the rout against the Brooklyn Nets, but it wasn't enough to get a feel for him, but if he can quickly commit to the grit-and-grind mantra this Grizzlies bunch lives by and dedicate himself to working defensively and on the boards then 7-10 minutes a game would be fair enough for Leuer.