Here is your latest 2012 NBA Draft rumor trend in five easy steps: (1) former Illinois center Meyers Leonard seriously impressed NBA executives at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, earning him buzz as a "big riser" and pushing him into the No. 9-to-No. 14 range, (2) the 20-year-old is two years younger than Zeller, he measured out much better at the combine and also interviewed with the Milwaukee Bucks in Chicago, (3) most NBA execs reportedly left the combine with Leonard ahead of Zeller on their draft boards, (4) the Bucks hold the No. 12 overall pick and are in desperate need of a center, (5) on Tuesday night, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead reported that Leonard jumped Zeller and John Henson and that he is getting "serious consideration" from the Portland Trail Blazers (No. 6 and No. 11), Detroit Pistons (No. 8) and Bucks. Got it? Good.
The rumors make perfect sense, given his enticing measurements from the combine. Every team should be interested in a young center that stands 6' 11.75" without shoes and brings a nearly NBA-ready body to the table (his 19 reps on the bench press were the second-highest total posted at the combine).
With two potentially interested teams holding higher draft picks than the Bucks it might not matter where Leonard is on Milwaukee's draft board, but their reported interest seems reasonable. Even if he needs time to develop -- and it's questionable how much time Scott Skiles and John Hammond have to spare, given their lame duck status -- the Bucks have to find someone to play interior defense and rebound from the center position.
Here is a direct comparison of Zeller and Leonard, using the Draft Express database:
|Name||Height w/o Shoes||Weight||Wingspan||Reach||Body Fat||Hand Length||Hand Width||No Step Vert||No Step Vert Reach||Max Vert||Max Vert Reach||Bench||Agility||Sprint|
|Tyler Zeller||6' 11.25"||247||7' 0"||8' 8.5"||6.4||9||9.75||30||11' 2.5"||34||11' 6.5"||16||11.13||3.4|
|Meyers Leonard||6' 11.75"||250||7' 3"||9' 0"||5.7||9.25||11||30||11' 6"||32.5||11' 8.5"||19||11.34||3.41|
The Illini product wins out in most areas (Zeller holds an edge on the max vertical and the lane agility drill), and he is generally considered the more athletic player. Whereas Zeller had plenty of help at UNC from Kendall Marshall, James Michael McAdoo, Harrison Barnes, and John Henson, the Illini didn't provide much cover for Leonard in his sophomore season. If the Bucks want the more polished player for this upcoming season, Zeller is the guy (Draft Express has his best/worst-case listed as (Greg Monroe/Paul Davis). If they are planning for the future, Leonard feels like the better pick (DX best/worst of Tiago Splitter/Bryon Mullens).
For a comparison of skills, here's a selected re-post of my Venn diagram from Hardwood Paroxysm -- Fun With 2012 NBA Draft Scouting Reports (A Mock Draft Supplement For Lottery Picks).
If Leonard moves into the top-10 picks, that would mean other players like Terrence Jones, Perry Jones or Jared Sullinger could slip to No. 12, so it's still hard to see the Bucks moving up. What do you think the Bucks should do?