Player Previews: Jon Leuer


Jan 25, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies power forward Jon Leuer (30) waits on the sideline before coming into the game against the Brooklyn Nets at the FedEx Forum. Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Brooklyn Nets 101-77. Mandatory Credit: Spruce DerdenUSA TODAY Sports

I always said there’s no one I’d rather give the ball to on a fast break than Darrell Arthur. That’s not to say I was sad when I saw him traded on Draft Night for back-up center Kosta Koufos — Arthur has been out of his prime for a couple of years now, and he was only getting worse on the Grizzlies in non-fast break situations. With Arthur gone, it seems that Jon Leuer, who was basically the receipt we got in return for sending Selby, Speights, Ellington, and a pick to Cleveland in 2013, will fill in at least some of Arthur’s minutes as the third string power forward.

First, the facts:

Name: Jon Leuer

College: Wisconsin (2007-2011)

Height/Weight: 6’10’’, 228 lbs.

Contract: 3 years, $3 million (signed on July 15, 2013)

’13-14 Salary: $900,000

Leuer was a hero for 8 minutes last season, in the fourth quarter against Charlotte in April. The Grizzlies led by just five with 11 minutes to play when Leuer started forcing turnovers, assisting on offense, finishing fast breaks, and, crucially, knocking down shots. He finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds in a 28-9 run that sealed the game for Memphis.

What does it say that Leuer was able to be productive on the spot after so many weeks of inactivity? He certainly has the mentality of a bench player, telling Ron Tillery: “During the game I’m just trying to be as focused as I can, watch what is going on out there, watching Marc (Gasol) and Zach (Randolph) and how they are playing and how they are playing ball screens, what they are looking at offensively and just staying focused in the huddle listening to the coaches. All that stuff adds up.”

If Leuer can stay true to that mentality, he can be a valuable bench player. Ed Davis, as the first back-up to Zach Randolph, will probably receive much more focus as he develops into a reliable stand-in — but that’s okay, because Leuer doesn’t really need coaching. He’s only been in the league a few years, but his offensive game is pretty well established.

…not that it’s great offense, of course. But when he’s in rhythm, Leuer is a decent shooter on pick and pops, especially from the baseline and midrange. His stretch will be valuable on the floor with Kosta Koufos, whose range is much closer to the basket. Leuer is light on his feet, too, a solid passer from the middle of the floor — I can see him taking a role similar to Marc Gasol’s if the coaching staff can pour him into that mold, with 3-point bombers Pondexter and Mike Miller to kick out to.

He even shows flashes of creativity around the rim, and a willingness to run the floor, which will be suited to the faster-paced offense that Joerger says he wants. Check him out receiving an awkward no-look pass from Austin Daye on the break at the 13 second mark, finishing with an and-1:

On defense, Leuer is tall enough to play the post, but he’ll have to play it smart to make up for his lack of brawn. His awareness and good positioning on offense should translate to defense (and rebounds), but I don’t think he’ll be a problem for the Lebron James and the Kobe Bryants of the world. Call it a hunch.

So Leuer is a cheap but valuable third-string option at power forward, and should be able to hold his position on the floor in the rare times that he’s needed. He doesn’t exactly scream “grit and grind,” he’s not a physical presence or a defensive hurdle — but between Arthur’s reckless power and Leuer’s determined consistency, I’ll take the latter.

Check out Leuer’s rookie mixtape (with the most mismatched soundtrack I think I’ve ever heard – NSFW language, be aware) here.