Spurs Prospect Watch: T.J. Leaf

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The San Antonio Spurs are on pace for a 65-win season. Obviously, that would mean they are set to make the playoffs and get a late pick in the NBA Draft. With the Spurs picking outside of the lottery they will once again have to scour the college ranks and probably overseas to find someone they like at that late pick.

Fortunately, that’s why I’m here. I’ve got you covered on which college prospects you should be looking at for the Spurs to draft this summer. This week’s prospect is UCLA power forward T.J. Leaf. He averages 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 2.7 assists a game while shooting 65.7 percent from the floor and 48.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The 6’10”, 220-pound forward is a smart and fluid basketball player at his size, which would come in quite handy if David Lee were to sign elsewhere next season. Leaf might need a year to get bigger and stronger, but could play in a pinch if needed as he isn’t phased by big time environments as he’s already proven with his performances at UCLA and a game at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.

While Leaf isn’t an explosive or super quick athlete, he’s a smart enough player and can move quickly enough on a lateral level to stay in front of offensive players. He’s not very long for his size so he doesn’t quite project as a real rim protector in the NBA, but can certainly guard some 3s and stretch-4s off the bounce.

Leaf has a knack for scoring around the rim using an array of hookshots coupled with a good touch and some good footwork. He is not quite big enough or good enough to fully post people, but has taken advantage of his versatility by taking bigger guys off the dribble and utilizing pump fakes to get him the shots he wants. Another reason Leaf has been able to shoot the ball so well is because he has solid mechanics, but also because he moves so well without the ball — a key component in NBA ball — and gets to his spots.

He also plays under control and almost never forces shots or plays while also being a great and willing passer. He’s been described as having a “European skill set” so that has to get the attention of some Spurs fans and front office members I would imagine. Most mock drafts have Leaf in the 20s, which means he could very well fall to the Spurs unless he plays so spectacularly well the rest of the season that he jumps into an incredibly loaded lottery.

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