Waaay too in depth Jon Leuer season preview.
This is the 8th season preview before the season.
Where he is now:
Leuer is a new addition to the Pistons, signing a 4 year $41 million deal this past summer. He is 27 and will be for almost the entire season, he has been well traveled in his career with the Pistons becoming his 5th team entering his 6th year. Leuer would appear to be solidly in place as the backup PF.
What to generally expect from him:
Leuer will be taking all of the minutes at backup PF and also may get time at center, and will likely occasionally get extended minutes in some matchups. As of now there is not much reason to expect anything more than this from his unless something changes.
Leuer will be asked to do the basic stretch 4 stuff, but he is more than just a shooter. While he will have his fair share of spotting up beyond the arc to provide spacing for the pick and roll and hitting open looks when teams help off of him. But Leuer is not just Anthony Tolliver, (I admit I kind of miss Tolly) the most obvious difference is that Leuer is a capable roll man. Tolly had one offensive skill and that was 3 point chucking, Leuer doesn't have to pop out for a jumper after setting a pick, he is also able to roll towards the hoop. He passes the main test for being an effective roll man in that he can catch the ball around the free throw line and get to the hoop for a dunk or layup without dribbling, and he is an explosive and long athlete who can finish over guys, while also having enough touch to finish around guys. BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!
He also has proven (this preseason) to be a fairly heady passer which is something that I was largely unaware of before. He is able to catch the ball while rolling to the hoop and whip it out to an open shooter if defenders crash the lane, and he can even handle the ball himself as a big man fast break, which is always fun.
Lastly, he does have at least some semblance of a post game. It is not very proven but when little guys are switched onto him he should have at least some ability to hurt them by just shooting over them. (and the early returns in this department are good) Overall he is going to be just a complimentary player, hitting open jumpers and finishing looks at the hoop created by others, and that is just fine for him.
This is where it gets a little bit dicey. SVG cited Leuer's size as being a big upgrade for the team so that they could more effectively guard bigger forwards, there are a couple of problems here. First off, Leuer is not actually that big, he is tall, but even with some obvious added bulk he is not exactly a burly guy and he struggles to deal with real post up bullies. The bigger deal though, is that Leuer is just not a very good defender. His length alone allows him to provide a dash of rim protection, but he is rather flat footed and is often caught standing to straight up resulting in ball handlers having little problem going past him, and while he will fight hard, he just doesn't often have the girth to really bang down low with the big boys. He is almost like a slightly taller Ersan on defense, minus drawing tons of hilarious charges. That is not the worst thing in the world, but he is not going to do a lot to help your defense and his best defensive attribute is that he, more often than not, will play harder than the guy he is guarding.
Leuer has been around and has had to fight for his spot everywhere he has been. As a result he has earned a reputation as a warrior everywhere he has been and is well known as an incredibly hard worker, which is something most guys who have been on so many teams have. I don't know that he would ever be known as much of a leader or anything, but I literally have not been able to find anything negative said about the guy, so I'd say he will be a solid locker room guy. Importantly, he is a guy that could be effectively described as “Built for war”.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Leuer is shooting in the upper 30s from 3.
He is hitting all kinds of fadeaways over little guys.
His added bulk allows him to hang with big guys more effectively.
Run for the hills if:
His unproven shot is proven to be not so good.
He turns out to be a downgrade defensively from Tolly.
Teams are putting smaller wings on him and he can't punish them.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
He plays well enough that he regularly is getting more time than just standard backup PF minutes.
He shoots 37% from 3.
He struggles a bit defensively but SVG coaches him into decency.
Bonus round. Will Leuer be better than Tolly was?
An interesting question since Leuer is essentially going to be filling the same role as Tolly did last year. I considered making this a separate post but decided to just slip it in here. I think he will be an upgrade on offense because his versatility makes the Pistons offense more dynamic and SVG will find fun ways to use him. That said, there will absolutely be nights where we all miss Tolly's shooting, and it is important to remember that even if Leuer shoots like 36% from 3, he is almost certain to do it on lower volume than Tolly. The mix of shameless chucking and still hitting 36% from 3 made Tolly a unique frontcourt weapon, and in his time with the Pistons there were several games where a hot streak from Tolly would almost single handedly win the night.
Defensively is where I am concerned, Leuer adds some rim protection that Tolly didn't have. But Tolly was a fiestey and fairly versatile defender. And when he shared the floor with a combination of KCP, Johnson, or Morris (any mixture of 2 of those 3) they formed a fairly effective, quick footed, long armed, switchey, high effort defensive trio that gave teams some trouble, in fact several of the Pistons finest defensive stretches from last year featured Tolly at the 4 spot. (The most memorable being that Blazers game where Reggie scored a billion points early in the year) Not that Tolly was a awesome defender or anything, but I think they will miss being able to put that look out there. Although given that Tobias has looked better defensively they might not miss it much.
What do you think? How will Leuer do this year? Will he be better than Tolly?