The UCLA Bruins had a great season going 31-5 this year. It was the most wins the Bruins had since 2008, when they won 35 games. Unfortunately, their season came to end when they lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, despite many feeling they would win the game. After all, UCLA beat Kentucky 97-92 on the road on December 3rd.
Lonzo Ball declared for the 2017 NBA Draft shortly after the game. Despite the whole world knowing that Ball was leaving, it made Bruins fans sad. No more 30-foot jumpers and slick passes, no more “Showtime” basketball.
Things only got worse for Bruins fans on March 30. TJ Leaf announced that he will declare for the draft as well.
UCLA’s TJ Leaf tells me that he will declare for the 2017 NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 30, 2017
Leaf had as much impact for a team as any freshman forward in the country. The 6’10 forward averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. Leaf is a good passer (2.4 apg), and a capable shooter (47% from 3).
In the first half of the game against Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Leaf showed how dominant he can be with 13 points in a variety of ways. His best game of the season came on Feb. 1 against Washington State. Leaf dominated all night going for 32 points (14/18 fg) and 14 rebounds.
What makes Leaf stands out doesn’t even show up on the stat sheet. His feel for the game is second-to-none. He makes passes that wings make and his touch around the basket is incredible. Leaf led the Pac-12 as he shot 62 percent from the field, rare for a guy who takes a good amount of jumpers.
There are a few minor concerns in Leaf’s game for the next level. He is a 68 percent free-throw shooter and it’s unlikely that he will be a shot-blocker (1.1 bpg). The question will be whether he is quick enough side-to-side to defend some quick power forwards such as Julius Randle & Anthony Davis. Despite this Leaf is actually a good athlete who runs the floor extremely well.
While it’s hard to believe he will be a franchise player, there is no doubt that Leaf should be at least a middle of the league power forward with his skill set. After all he is only 19-years-old.
Look for Leaf to be selected anywhere between 10-15 come draft night.