2016/2017 Season Recap/Notes: Jon Leuer.
This is the 6th season recap. The starting lineup is all done, now we are moving into the bench.
I think the best thing to say about Leuer is that he more or less knew what his role is, and he more or less did it pretty well. (Other than his 3 point shooting) In a season where he averaged career highs in every single total number, and the first season where he was a major rotation member for the whole year, he was pretty successful. 10.2 points on aTS% of 55.1% is rock solid, tack on 5.4 boards and 1.5 assists in 25.9 minutes per game and the numbers tell a nice story for him. He shot very well inside the arc and at the line, which allowed him to be highly efficient despite the horrible shooting from deep.
Combine his ability to finish looks inside with slick interior passing and ball handling, and Leuer definitely provides a nice skill set for a guy as tall as he is. There are not a ton of dudes his size who can routinely make the passes he would on a fairly regular basis, in a lot of ways he is almost like Reggie Bullock in big man form. (once again, other than the horrible 3 point shooting) He was generally decisive on the floor, if he got the ball he didn't do a lot of standing to survey the floor or wait for a guard to come take it, he kept it moving, whether by passing, shooting, or driving. I am of the opinion that this is a very valuable skill on offense, even if it doesn't really show up in the box score.
Just in general, Leuer's combination of size, effort, and playmaking is a nice skill set and it was nice to have a guy like him on the team. Even if it didn't end up being the cleanest fit for various reasons, you can see why the Pistons like Leuer.
It starts with his shooting from deep, because it was awful. He shot just 29.3%, and since it was on just 2.2 attempts per game, you can't even make the KCP argument of that he takes a high volume and some of them end up being harder shots. His lack of shooting was a huge problem for the Pistons this year, and it was really exploited as the year went on and SVG tried Leuer as a starter. By the end of the year everyone knew Leuer was shooting poorly, and that it had made him gun shy from deep. The combination of his and Ish Smith's high minutes in so many games this year is a big reason why the Pistons offense, especially in the half court, (both of them are excellent on the break) was so miserable. The Pistons theoretical offense is running pick and rolls with Drummond surrounded by shooters, and the Pistons played a large amount of minutes with two guys who were not only miserable from deep, but also very unwilling to fire when they were open. Team's happily clogged the lane to keep any of the Pistons away from the hoop knowing that the Pistons often had only one or two guys on the floor that were likely to even shoot a 3 when open. (for all of my gripes with KCP, dude has never had any fear of firing away, and his simple willingness to shoot matters.) This all was made even more painful given that Anthony Tolliver, who signed with the Kings for a cheaper deal than Leuer, fired away at 39.1% from 3 this season. HOWEVA, there is some hope. Leuer has been better in his career from 3, and he still is at a small enough sample size that it may have just been bad luck.
The other problem with Leuer was that he just isn't really much of a defensive player. He has the stereotypical white guy stuff of being gritty and playing hard going for him, but he didn't even have the added “Always in the right place” defensive game down. It doesn't matter how hard you play if you get beaten off the dribble routinely and lose guys off the ball a lot. Leuer isn't a terrible defender, but he isn't all that good either, and once again, this is made more painful by the fact that Tolly was actually better at the stereotypical white guy defender stuff, while also having the added benefit of having some quicks and hops to actually make good on some of it.
Basically in the end, the biggest problem with Leuer is that he was worse than Anthony Tolliver was, which in a way is unfair to Leuer, but the reality is that the Pistons chose Leuer over Tolly. Tolliver was damn near a perfect fit for what the Pistons want as a guy who is a relentless 3 point chucker who never needs the ball in his hands, and his biggest problem on defense is lack of size which is something the Pistons can live with since they have Andre to cover for that. Once again though, it is early, Leuer will be 28 next year and Tolly will be 32. Leuer might figure out his shot and is most definitely a more complete, well rounded player than Tolly is.
Jon Leuer is a competent rotation player. Given the fact that last year in Phoenix playing 18.7 minutes per game was his biggest body of work up to this point, he was a question mark in a lot of ways and it is always a risk to pay those guys. For all of his flaws and potentially not being a great fit, Leuer is a good player who is deserving of real NBA minutes.
Do the Pistons want to hold onto him for next year? Once again, he is not really the cleanest fit, and there is a theoretical replacement for him readily available in Ellenson. Combine that with that the Pistons are likely to move someone this Summer whether to dodge the luxury tax after signing KCP, to open up some space after letting KCP walk, or just trying to net a shooter of some sort in return regardless of what happens with KCP, and Leuer's 11 million per year, and there is a decent chance he is the one/one of the guys who gets moved. Obviously the readiness of Ellenson is also a big question around how comfortable you would be in moving Leuer, but if they don't think he is going to shoot better then it is something they have to be considering.
What do you think? Should the Pistons hold onto Leuer this Summer? Can he find his shot back?