Meyers Leonard: Rip City’s Unlikely Sniper (and Other NBA Observations)

Sometimes we hear things that are so outrageous, they seem to halt the rest of the world for a moment while you grapple with it. This was how I felt when I heard the announcer yelp out “Leonard for three” which was followed by a roar from the crowd – and an even bigger roar from Meyers Leonard.

Two three-pointers? In this season or this game? Intrigued, I jumped on to Basketball Reference only to discover that I was late to the 7’1 sharpshooter’s three point bonanza for this season.

After last night’s “outburst,” Leonard’s 3PT% has climbed even further, up to 46.1. If he had enough 3PT-attempts to qualify that would place Leonard third in the league, trailing only Kyle Korver and Eric Gordon.

As noted by Danny Chau of Grantland, looking at the rest of Leonard’s shooting splits for this season put him in rare company: he’s the only player this season with over 200 FGAs to qualify for the 50-40-90 club at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the line). There is nothing in his past that would hint at this new growth either; prior to this season he had much more of a penchant for shooting long twos. But this year, he’s taken a step back and turned those deep, inefficient attempts into threes with great results so far.

Does this mean that he’s the savior for a Blazers team seeking to replace Wes Matthews’ long range shooting? Or that he has earned a new nickname, Dead-eye Five? Not likely – he was getting key minutes only due to foul trouble and it’s probable that if his usage increases, his efficiency will decline. But let’s forget that for now and just live in awe.

It also got me thinking, who else in the League is doing great work in unexpected areas??

Danny Green: Block Party

Dwyane Wade has long held the title of best shot-blocking shooting guard, but his numbers have tapered off recently due to injury and age. The heir to his crown appears to be Danny Green who ironically is more known for being blocked than doing the blocking. But Green is the first non-big to appear on the total blocks list this season with, or just over one per game. He blocked enough shots halfway through the year to get his own block highlight reel as well. Rookie KJ McDaniels also warrants consideration, but he has not really played since he was traded to Houston at the trade dealine.

Young Players: Technically Sound

One of the knocks on young players is maturity, but the stats for technical fouls would seem to say something else. Every player in the top 50 for the most technicals this season has been in the league for three years at minimum. You have to look down to Jusuf Nurkic to find the first rookie or second year player on this list and he is tied with a large pack that all has three technical fouls on the season. Of course, one of his was earned doing this:

So it only half counts in my eyes.

Nerlens Noel: Swat Left, Swipe Right

Noel operates in NBA purgatory (aka the Sixers) which dampens the amount of excitement and attention that he gets but he is developing as a defender. Not only is he already a good shot blocker and rim protector in his first season (opponents shoot a lower percentage with him near the rim than Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan among others), but Noel is also the only center in the top 40 for steals per game with 1.8. Advanced stats are also on the big man’s side; he ranks in the top 10 in both defensive rating and defensive win shares.

BRIAN WONG | @bigbwong

Brian Wong is a third-generation Chinese American and Bay Area native. NBA fan, Golden State Warriors fanatic.

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