TJ Leaf
Power Forward (Rank: #22) | 6-10, 222
UCLA
Draft Board: Round 1 | Round 2
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Draft Projection: Mid-First Round Pick

Positives: Insider Only

Negatives: Insider Only

Summary: May 23 update: Leaf put up solid numbers in the athletic testing portion of the combine, and everyone knows he's one of the most skilled players in the draft.

However, scouts continue to be concerned that his lack of length and lateral quickness will limit his defensive potential.

May 8 update: In an era when stretch-4s are thriving in the NBA, Leaf seems like a slam dunk to land somewhere in the teens.

He's an elite scorer with toughness. However, teams worry a bit about his lack of size and length.

Leaf will be doing interviews, athletic testing and the medicals but won't be playing 5-on-5 at the combine.

April 12 update: Leaf is one of the most skilled forwards in the draft. He can score from everywhere on the floor, rebounds and shows toughness. And his basketball IQ is really high.

Teams worry a bit about his lack of size (6-foot-9). While he's a good athlete, he sometimes struggles to score over length.

April 4 update: The Heat already have an elite shot-blocker in the middle, so drafting a skilled 4 like Leaf seems like a sound option -- especially after seeing how Luke Babbitt fits with the team.

Leaf draws Babbitt comparisons because of his inside-outside skill set, but he's tougher and a better athlete. He would be a long-term upgrade for Miami.

March 27 update: UCLA lost, but for the second time this season, Leaf played a terrific game against Kentucky. He's a super-skilled 4, tough and athletic, and he can get his points from anywhere on the floor. His defense can be questionable at times, but a number of scouts spoke about how impressed they were with him in the Kentucky game. He's looks like a pick in the 12-to-20 range.

March 23 update: Leaf's ability to score from anywhere on the floor is the big appeal for scouts. But his lack of length and questionable defensive presence is a worry. Kentucky should pose all sorts of problems for him, though he was awesome in their first matchup, scoring 17 points, grabbing 13 boards and dishing out five assists. It's those big games against athletic frontcourts like Kentucky that have some scouts convinced he can handle the elite athleticism and length of the NBA.

March 14 update: Leaf is one of the most offensively talented big men in the draft. He can score efficiently from anywhere on the floor. He plays with a high basketball IQ but also has a certain grittiness to his game.

While he needs to get stronger and some teams worry that he lacks ideal length and size for his position (especially on the defensive end), Leaf's versatility makes him an attractive prospect in the middle of the first round.

March 6 update: Leaf sprained his ankle early in the game against Washington last Wednesday, but he's expected to be back in the Pac-12 tournament. Leaf is not particularly long or strong, but he is a good athlete, is very crafty in the paint and has the ability to step out and hit shots from anywhere on the floor.

As he adds strength, you could see him playing a role like Josh McRoberts or Luke Babbitt in the NBA.

Feb. 1 update: Leaf is one of the more gifted offensive players in the country. He can score from anywhere on the floor and looks for the opportunity whenever he can.

Teams are troubled by his lack of strength and defensive commitment but excited about a player his size who can do so much offensive damage everywhere on the floor.

Dec. 22 update: Leaf was the highest riser of anyone on our draft board. While he was a coveted high school prospect, scouts didn't expect to see this level of production from him so early in college.

He can score from anywhere on the floor, rebounds and plays hard. He's also a fluid athlete with a good feel for the game. He needs to get stronger, and his defense isn't great, but all the basketball skills are there.

Dec. 1 update: All the scouting eyes in the NBA have been focused on Lonzo Ball at UCLA, and so far he has lived up to the hype (and jumped four spots from No. 7 to No. 3 in our Top 100). But Leaf has more than held his own in the early going, drawing raves from scouts who love his combination of size, agility and shooting prowess.

He's averaging 17.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 1.3 BPG while shooting 68 percent from the field and 53 percent from 3. On a team loaded with potent scorers, he leads the Bruins in points per game, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

"He's the perfect modern NBA 4," one GM said. "He can rebound, block shots, stretch the floor and finish at the rim. I think everyone wants to be a bit cautious about him. He needs to get stronger and we all want to see how he fares against more elite talent. But I could see him ending up in the lottery. Most of us had Tyler Lydon ahead of him on our draft boards, but I think T.J. is better."

 

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