Date of Birth: April 30, 1997
Position: Power Forward
Measurements: 6’10, 220 lbs
T.J. Leaf is a gifted shooter and scorer. In many of our previous scouting reports for some of the big men in this draft, we have noted that they have showed the potential to become a solid shooter one day. T.J. Leaf, unlike the others, is already a great shooter.
Leaf will be a very versatile player in the NBA. Because of his athleticism and ability to spread the floor, he can fit into any system. He also has the ability to put the ball down and create for teammates. In the play below, he shows off some of skills by putting the ball down. faking a Rondo-esque behind the back pass and then gets the bucket and finds his way to the line.
T.J. Leaf is the most skilled big man in this draft at this point. He can shoot it from all around the arc. At one point this year, T.J. Leaf was shooting above 60% from the field and 50% from deep. Now, obviously, that kind of shooting is impossible to sustain, but he still had some very impressive shooting numbers. He shot 62% from the field and 47% from deep, unbelievable numbers.
Leaf’s main weakness is his defensive ability. T.J. Leaf showed his offensive capabilities throughout the season, but what he did not show was an elite defensive presence. Leaf wasn’t terrible on defense by any means given that he actually put the effort in, but you could tell that he wouldn’t be able to defend at the next level almost immediately. Leaf looks a bit too lean right now to be able to guard any power forward in the NBA. I’m intrigued to see if he can defend the Danilo Gallinari type at the next level, but we simply do not know that yet since he didn’t get that opportunity at UCLA.
We saw how well T.J. Leaf shot at UCLA this season, but is it a good representation of how he will shoot at the next level? For one, Leaf was surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast in Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford, and company. Ball is one of the best distributors we have ever seen at the college level and Leaf was awarded some pretty easy shot attempts because of that fact.
Leaf also didn’t take as many shots as some of the other top prospects, especially from the three point line. Yes, Leaf shot above 46% from deep, but he only attempted 58 three-pointers all season. The team selecting him may take the risk of choosing him based off his percentages because they are just that good, but as we’ve said they may not be sustainable.
T.J. Leaf is 1 of 2 players in the last 25 years to shoot above 60% from the field and 45% from deep (Minimum of 300 FGAs and 50 3PAs), Doug McDermott is the other.
T.J. Leaf isn’t an easy player to make a comparison for. He’s tall, a bit lean, very athletic, and can shoot the lights out. Nikola Mirotic is that type of player. Both 6’10 and 220 lbs. While Mirotic isn’t nearly as athletic as Leaf, he still has shown from time to time that he can supply some of his own poster dunks. Nikola Mirotic can’t really create his own shot and is simply a catch and shoot player on offense for the most part. Leaf is a bit more versatile than Mirotic, but could possibly turn into that same type of player. T.J. Leaf has an enormous potential, but we should feel good knowing that at the very least, he could revert to having a Mirotic type impact for a team.
Between picks 13 and 20