With only a few days to go until the NBA Draft, we’re going to break down a few mock draft selections for the Thunder. We’ve already done eight, Semi Ojeleye, Luke Kinnard, Terrance Ferguson, Harry Giles, Justin Jackson, OG Anunoby, Derrick White, and Jawun Evans. We’re going to break down a couple more. Stay with us as the NBA season ends and the NBA offseason ramps up.
Who: TJ Leaf
Position: Power Forward
Wt: 225 lbs.
After helping the UCLA Bruins reach the Sweet 16 in March, the 6-10 power forward from Israel opted to take his game to the next level, entering the NBA Draft.
TJ Leaf, along with Lonzo Ball and Ike Anigbogu, anchored a stellar freshman class for the Bruins that saw UCLA jump their win total from 15 wins in 2016 to 31 in 2017. Leaf led the Bruins in scoring at 21.7 points per 40 minutes, converting 64.4 percent of his 2-point field goal attempts and 46.6 percent of his 3 point attempts.
Most mock drafts have Leaf going in the middle of the first round. With his unique perimeter skills for a player his size and ability to get up and down the floor in transition, Leaf has the potential to be a steal for teams sitting outside the lottery.
At 6-10, 225 lbs., Leaf possesses versatility on the offensive end. He is a decent ball handler who has the ability to start a fast break himself. He not only has the ability to attack opposing players out of face up situations but he can also stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting.
Leaf knocked down 46.6 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2017 with most of them coming off a pick-and-roll plays or in transition on a fast break.
When Leaf gets the ball in the post he has the ability to score with his back to the basket with hook shots over either shoulder. He is also a finesse fisher around the basket with excellent touch from mid-range.
His court awareness also makes him a valuable asset in the NBA. With big hands and leaping ability, Leaf is an excellent target in the pick-and-roll. He can flare out and shoot or roll to the basket for the lob.
While he possesses a strong offensive attack, Leaf’s inability to move on defense will be an area of concern for the team that drafts him.
Leaf lacks the physicality to handle stronger players in the paint and also lacks the lateral quickness to defend on the pick-and-roll. With his inability to handle more physical players in the post and the lack of speed to guard more athletic players on the wings, it could be difficult for Leaf to find a solid role in the NBA if he can’t adjust.
Leaf’s ability to score and stretch opposing defenses provide a lot of optimism for teams late in the draft. His ability to handle the basketball and get out in transition and finish at the rim give scouts confidence that he can be solid player for an NBA franchise.
At just 20 years old, Leaf is still improving his game. The team that drafts him will have the opportunity to mold Leaf into their system as well as help him mature on the defensive end.
With a high offensive ceiling, it’s easy to see why teams will take a chance on the power forward. Leaf is projected to go late in the first round. If he falls to the Thunder, don’t be surprised to see Sam Presti pull the trigger on him.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!