If you’ve played basketball on any level, you know there are certain qualities players have that can make the game more enjoyable for all involved. Conversely, there are traits that can make the game seem like a relative nightmare.
I love playing with that dude.
I hate playing with that dude.
Jon Leuer is a dude you would love to play with.
It’s been an underwhelming season in Detroit but one of few surprises has been the play of Leuer. He’s seen a rise in minutes and responded with career high numbers pretty much across the board.
So what makes him fun to play with?
He keeps the bigs happy
Back-to-the-basket bigs are dependent on their teammates to get them the ball when the situation calls for it. The problem, though, is in a guard dominated league, they can become an afterthought to ball handlers. Not a problem with Leuer on the court:
Leuer is constantly feeding Drummond and Baynes to keep them engaged in the offense. If you want your big guy to fight extra hard on the defensive end, the easiest way is to make him feel needed on offense.
It’s a bit of basketball psychology but it works. Am I saying Leuer is playing mind games? Not exactly. Doing this consciously or subconsciously isn’t the point. The point is that he does it.
Big guys do a ton of work that goes under the radar and it’s important to make them feel appreciated. This doesn’t mean the offense runs through the post as even a “token” entry pass will do the trick. Leuer keeps the bigs happy which in turn makes the team better.
Right place, right time
Leuer has a knack of making the right cut at the right time. Not only is it smart basketball but it makes your teammates look good as well.
Above, as our old buddy Jonas Jerebko bumps a rolling Drummond, he loses track of Leuer who is sneaking to the hoop and ends the play with a dunk. Had Leuer just hung around the three point line, Tobias Harris would’ve been stuck with some terrible options.
Again, Leuer gives Aron Baynes an outlet on his way to the cup:
I’m willing to bet that possession ends without the Pistons scoring had Leuer just settled in the corner.
Basketball isn’t rocket science and it’s an easy game if you let it be. A simple cut on a distracted defender will net you two points:
Just go to the place where they’re not:
Team objectives come first
Below are the final three possessions of the half against Indiana earlier this year.
For context, this gives Leuer 10 points in the quarter; he’s cooking. The obvious play is to continue feeding the hot hand, right? That’s what Indiana thought too.
Leuer sets the screen for Ish Smith (same action as first two examples with Jackson) and then immediately sets a screen for Tobias Harris to knock down the open three. Basically, Leuer was used as the decoy and didn’t hesitate. It may not seem like much but guys (teammates) notice this stuff.
Entry passes, smart cuts and setting screens. Is there a more boring set of signature plays than that? Probably not but I guarantee you that Jon Leuer would be one of your favorite teammates.