Lonzo Ball won’t be the only one leaving UCLA for the NBA after his freshman year.
Also entering the draft: T.J. Leaf.
UCLA freshman TJ Leaf told ESPN he will declare for NBA draft with the intention of signing with an agent.
Leaf will likely go in the middle of the first round, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on the high end of his projected range. He’s extremely skilled, and that could shine in workouts.
A 6-foot-10 power forward, Leaf shot well from all areas of the court — at the rim, mid-range and beyond the arc. He can make quality passes (when he’s looking), and he has nice hops.
Despite shooting 47% on 3-pointers at UCLA, there’s uncertainty about his outside shooting, because he made less than one 3 per game. That is a small sample (27-of-58) and speaks to his selectivity. For comparison, another stretch four prospect, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, attempted nearly three times as many 3-pointers (69-of-163, 42%). Leaf’s 68% free-throw shooting doesn’t lend confidence in the purity of his stroke, though his mid-range jumper provides evidence in his favor.
The question isn’t whether Leaf is a good shooter. He is. The question is how good.
And then there are the biggest concerns: Leaf’s toughness and defense. He gets pushed around too much. Perhaps, that changes as Leaf, who turns 20 later this month, gets stronger with age. But it would have been nice to see more signs of defensive tenacity this season.