Miami Heat big man Meyers Leonard becomes an unrestricted free agent once the 2020 transaction period begins. He just finished the last year of a four-year, $41 million contract he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2016.
Leonard appeared in 51 games for the Heat during the 2019-20 regular season. He averaged 6.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists while shooting 50.9 percent from the field, 41.4 percent from beyond the arc and 64.3 percent from the free throw line.
In the 2020 playoffs at Walt Disney World, where the Heat lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in six games, Leonard put up 4.7 points per contest in three appearances. He wasn’t in the playoff rotation, but that didn’t stop Leonard from being a great teammate. He was heavily involved on the bench with his teammates and drew plenty of praise from pundits for his level of professionalism.
With free agency about a month away, here are three ideal landing spots for Meyers Leonard.
1. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs need more spacing on the floor for Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Since Leonard does most of his damage from the perimeter, he’s an ideal fit in Dallas.
Leonard is a career 39.0 percent shooter from beyond the arc. When he brings his defender out to the perimeter, it will create more driving lanes for Doncic and Porzingis to attack.
The Mavs fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2020 playoffs in six games. The series may have gone to seven games had Porzingis not gotten hurt. He suffered a knee injury and recently underwent surgery.
Leonard isn’t going to make the Mavs title contenders, but he would be a solid pick up for the locker room and for Dallas’ 3-point shooting.
2. Houston Rockets
Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni may be gone from Houston, but the Rockets are probably still going to shoot a lot of 3-pointers in 2020-21.
Just like in Dallas, Leonard’s 3-point shooting skills would open up the floor for Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook. One of the reasons Houston traded center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks is because the team wanted to maximize Westbrook’s driving skills. With Capela on the floor, Westbrook didn’t have enough driving lanes to attack.
Westbrook and Leonard would thrive in the pick-and-pop since defenders would have to decide if they want to stop Westbrook’s drives or go out to the 3-point line and contest Leonard’s shot from deep.
3. Boston Celtics
The Celtics need rebounding help after losing Al Horford to the Philadelphia 76ers in the summer of 2019. Leonard grabs 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes for his career. He’s a seven-footer and has decent upper body strength, something the Celtics need desperately.
Just like in Dallas and Houston, Leonard’s perimeter skills would benefit Celtics stars Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Boston actually lost to Leonard and the Heat in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. While Leonard didn’t play at all in the series, the Celtics could use a stretch big man who can consistently knock down shots from the perimeter and help clear the boards on the defensive end of the floor.
The Heat may not have an interest in bringing Leonard back since they are trying to clear as much cap space for 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo could hit the open market if he doesn’t sign the supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks this offseason. Indiana Pacers All-Star shooting guard Victor Oladipo is also on the Heat’s radar since he will become a free agent in 2021 as well.
With that being said, it’s going to be interesting to see where Leonard winds up. He has career NBA averages of 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 444 games with the Blazers and Heat while shooting 48.2 percent from the field, 39.0 percent from beyond the arc and 81.1 percent from the free throw line. Leonard made $11.3 million in 2019-20 with the Heat. He’ll probably command a similar salary on the open market since teams really value bigs who can shoot the 3-pointer nowadays.
Wherever Leonard ends up, the team he joins will be getting a great teammate and hard worker. The Illinois native is never going to be an All-Star or a guy who puts a team over the top. However, his impact in the locker room, particularly on younger guys, is something that can’t be measured by stats.
Meyers Leonard has made $50,037,072 from the Blazers and Heat since getting drafted by Portland in 2012 with the 11th overall pick. At this stage of his career, the 28-year-old doesn’t care about money. Leonard just wants to play for a team that has winning in mind and can use his services on the court.