How do you fix a broken badger? Sigh, this is unfortunately the question I have to ask. This off season, I wrote about how Jon Leuer could be a beneficial role player. During preseason, he averaged 9.4 points. This is about what I would expect from him during the regular season. Yet, during the course of five games, he's averaged 1.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, .2 blocks, and has a PER of -0.27. Total, he's had 6 points and 12 rebounds. Overall, he averaged 6.2 points last season. The Grizzlies acquired him in 2012-13 via the infamous salary dump of Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby, in which he was considered an afterthought and trade byproduct. So far this season, that's what he's playing like.
Okay, we have a broken badger on our hands. How can he be fixed?
Let's note his shot selection so far. Most of the shots have been jumpers, even a few threes. The problem? Almost all of them have been short. In the past, I've seen the guy knock down threes and jumpers consistently. So, is it a mental thing? Maybe. What else could it be? He's taking enough shots so far( 16), but none of them are falling (seriously, he's only made 2). He's been given the role we've all wanted (and, probably, the one he's also wanted since coming here), but he's cracking under the pressure. It's only been a small sample size, but one can't help but wonder when the rookies will be let loose if his play doesn't improve.
This is partly a test of head coach Dave Joerger. How long of a leash is he giving Leuer? If he doesn't improve in the next couple of games, will Jarnell Stokes or Jordan Adams take the floor in his place?
Definitely, Leuer's chance isn't over yet. He still has some time to get into a groove, but it seems that the solution lies in his head. Before, Leuer has never been expected to do much. In fact, he only played 49 games last season. This season, I'd expect to see him play almost every game. That is, if his performance improves.
Here's a few things that might help Leuer improve his game:
Keep taking shots.
Maybe this goes without being said, but Leuer must keep taking shots. Just because he's gone cold doesn't mean he should stop shooting. So far, he's done a good job of this, but it'll be interesting to see if he keeps it up. Some nights, he just won't have it. That's fine. But he has to have some nights when he's hitting shots at a nice clip. 2-16 from the field over 4 games won't cut it. One of the worst things he could do, however, is to stop taking shots. For the first four games, all of his shots were short. In last night's game, they all were a little too strong. Just watch, they'll start going in soon.
Confidence baby, confidence!
Please, Johnny Badger, for all of us, don't give up. Get over this mental hill. Maybe the pressure of a consistent role is shocking his system. Last year, he was used to occasional minutes. He has to perform on a nightly basis now. He has the capability to stretch the floor and grab rebounds. We've all see him shoot, and we all know he can score:
He just needs a breakout game to boost his confidence and get his game moving.
Start in the paint and work your way out.
When a player is going through a terrible shooting streak from around the perimeter, he should start making some buckets in the paint. If Leuer can get some paint points and "warm up his shot," he can then work his way out slowly. As Leuer gets more comfortable, he'll hopefully start making some of those jumpers and three's. A few put backs and rebounds definitely can give him a boost. Get fouled at the rim. Make some free throws. Drive into the lane and score!
Okay, so maybe I shouldn't be hitting the panic button just yet. But with such a deep roster and some hungry rookies waiting for their chances, Leuer needs to hurry up and get into somewhat of a groove to prove he belongs consistently in the rotation.