San Antonio Spurs can use the NBA Finals to evaluate Meyers Leonard

Jan 19, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) shoots over Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard (0) in the first half at the AT&T Center. (Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 19, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) shoots over Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard (0) in the first half at the AT&T Center. (Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports) /

Miami Heat center eyers Leonard, who started Game 2 of the NBA Finals, could be a viable free-agent target for the San Antonio Spurs this offseason.

As the NBA Finals rage on with the Miami Heat down 0-2, head coach Erik Spoelstra has been forced to make key lineup changes for the San Antonio Spurs to be aware of. Center Meyers Leonard, who took a backseat to Bam Adebayo in the NBA Bubble, was inserted to the starting lineup and looked solid in limited action.

Leonard is a 28-year-old player whose playstyle is equipped for the modern game. He’s a solid rim protector who communicates well on defense as a backline surveyor of the court. Beyond that, he’s a capable offensive presence who can impact the game on the glass and hit 43 percent of his 289 3-point attempts in the previous three seasons. That’s a skill set that the San Antonio Spurs could certainly use as they move into the organization’s new era.

If center Jakob Poeltl walks in free agency, the Spurs will be left with a major hole in their frontcourt rotation. A restricted free agent with great value as a pick-and-roll presence, Poeltl is an ideal center who’s favored by just about every advanced defensive statistic in the book. Though he hasn’t had much opportunity to play extended minutes for the silver and black, his Orlando restart was promising when he could keep on the court.

Unfortunately, foul issues were huge for him, which irritates head coach Gregg Popovich beyond belief. There’s a chance that Poeltl isn’t in silver and black next year, opening the door for the team to sign Leonard with a portion of its Mid-Level exception. For Miami, there are bigger fish to fry in free agency with their eyes set on the loaded 2021 free agency class, which is part of the reason why letting Leonard walk seems logical.

Making $11.3 million on the final year of his current four-year deal, Leonard isn’t likely to make as much on his next contract. The 2020 free agency period projects to be one without much mobility considering most teams’ cap space is tied up amongst other positions. This is why the San Antonio Spurs could snag him on a mid-level exception during the offseason.

Meyers Leonard will start tonight for the Heat… (per @ShamsCharania)

Throwback to him dropping 25 PTS in the 1st half against the Warriors last year ?

(via @NBA)

— Overtime (@overtime) October 3, 2020

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However, Leonard needs to prove he can make an impact on the NBA Finals before the San Antonio Spurs would throw any significant offers in his direction. If he can take advantage of the fact that his team is hurting and leave his mark on the series, even if it ends in a sweep, his free-agent value would rise exponentially.

Plus, it’s hard to find 3-point shooters at the center position who can actually make an impact on the defensive side of things. Leonard is a rarity in that sense as a low-usage, high impact player who makes a great Miami Heat team better by 2.1 points per 100 possessions this year.

Leonard is a solid fit with the San Antonio Spurs from a cultural perspective because of his dignified approach to professional interactions and playing the sport. All signs indicate that he can handle the heat from head coach Gregg Popovich after playing under Terry Stotts and Spoelstra during the course of his professional career.

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Should Jakob walk, Leonard makes sense as a one-year fill-in at the position.