TJ Leaf (PF, UCLA)

 

Measurables: 6’10”, 6’11” wingspan, 222 lbs, 20.0 years old

Strengths

  • Ridiculous efficiency stats – 62% FG, 47% 3 point, .220 WS/40, 26.6 PER
  • 77% at rim – good numbers
  • 45% on 2 point outside rim
  • Pretty good PF size – 6’10”, 222
  • Nice bounce in space – good transition weapon
  • Solid lob target with bounce/reach
  • Plays with high motor – o-boards, transition
  • Decent rebounder for PF – 14.9 TRB% – better than Markkanen
  • Rim protecting flashes – 3.5 BLK% – 8’11” standing reach helps
  • Nice open court ballhandling skills
  • Good off-ball floor spacer
  • Very nice pull up game – 50% on off-dribble jumpers
  • Ability to attack closeouts + use touch in lane
  • Great pick and pop ability – 94th percentile
  • Great faceup game – able to bully smaller defenders/blow past slower ones
  • Extremely underrated post up game – 96th percentile – uses touch
  • Great vision for a stretch-4 prospect – 13.2 AST%
  • Makes smart decisions – 10.8 TOV%
  • Does a lot of things well on offense, should provide NBA role

Weaknesses

  • Relied a ton on others (Lonzo) for a lot of his scoring – 66% assisted at rim, 40% assisted 2 point outside rim, 96% assisted on 3s
  • Average reach for height
  • Somewhat rigid driving into the lane
  • Takes some time to get shot off – needs to speed up release
  • Doesn’t get all the way to rim off dribble – settles for touch shots outside immediate rim area
  • Needs to improve 68% FT
  • Rarely gets to line – 4.0 FTA/40
  • Doesn’t slide his feet on defense – problem given athleticism
  • Pushed around easily in post defense – weak base
  • Swipes for blocks rather than sliding in front to cut drivers off
  • Doesn’t have ability to contain guards in PnR defense
  • IQ on defense needs to improve all-around
  • Very easily exposed in PnR – will be targeted
  • Often a ball-watcher in help situations – needs better effort
  • Huge problem on D – can’t hang with 3s or 4s, too small for 5s
  • Struggles finishing against length due to avg athleticism/reach
  • Plays tough but fairly averse to contact near rim – difficult finishes
  • Needs to add strength finishing around rim, defending post
  • Pushed around pretty easily on glass – not great NBA rebounder
  • Inconsistent jumper mechanics + small 3 point sample – only attempted 58 3 point shots

Overall

  • Leaf was incredibly productive last season at UCLA, but his game has questionable translation to the NBA level. He’s only an average athlete – with average size – and while he’s skilled on offense, his jumper is inconsistent and his reputation as a “stretch 4” is a bit overblown. He’ll have to prove that his 3 point shot is legit to succeed in the NBA, because he will almost surely be a defensive liability because he struggles in so many areas. He’s also a fairly low-ceiling player – a stretch 4 who can playmake a little but is a defensive liability is probably a low-end starter or a bench player. Maybe Leaf gets stronger and better around the rim, but for now he’s hard to project as being a very good NBA player.

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