Jon Leuer Fighting to Start in Cleveland
The Cleveland Cavaliers are searching for talent with 20 players in training camp and nearly half of them on non-guaranteed deals. Jon Leuer, who was signed to a non-guaranteed contract after being waived by the Houston Rockets in July, is one of the guys who has made an impression on Cavaliers head coach Bryon Scott.
“I see things in certain guys that just hasn’t been tapped,” Scott said. “I had a talk with Jon earlier this summer and I think he could be a very good basketball player. One of his biggest problems is he thinks he is just okay and I don’t think he has the confidence in himself right now to be able to go out there and be able to produce on a night-to-night basis, but I think he does.”
Leuer was drafted in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2011 and the young big man appeared in 46 games as a rookie last season. The college senior measured 6’11.5 in shoes with a 7’ wingspan and a 36.5” maximum vertical leap, but only saw limited minutes despite starting 12 times for the Bucks. Leuer’s season averages of 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds hide the fact he shot 40 percent from three-point range as a starter and his per-36-minute averages were a much more impressive 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks.
“I like Jon a lot,” Scott said. “He is a very smart basketball player. He has three-point range. He has a pretty good post game. The thing I like the most about Jon is he has a very good basketball I.Q. and he plays hard.”
Coach Scott sees Leuer as a power forward who could play minutes at the five or the three, but will be best served by letting him learn one position. Scott needs a player with Leuer’s skills at the four now that Antawn Jamison is no longer on the team.
“Right now with Jon, I am just trying to get him to learn the four spot,” Scott said. “Learn that and get comfortable with that. … He is a guy who can take up a little bit of what Antawn did for us because he is a guy who can stretch the floor. He does have three-point range, but he is a lot more athletic than people think he is as well and a lot tougher than people think he is. I think in those three areas is where he can help us.”
To get that kind of impact out of the 23-year-old will require that Leuer have confidence in himself. Coach Scott has been down this road before and believes he can do it again.
“(In the past) the biggest thing I did was to be honest with them about my assessment of their game and what they can be and what they could do in this league and give them the opportunity to do that,” Scott said. “As I told Jon, he is going to have that opportunity to play the way I think he is capable of playing.
“You just have to continue to make sure he continues to see progress. From a coaching standpoint, you got to keep encouraging and talking to him about things you are seeing him doing well. With the confidence level with him, a lot of times he might do something that he doesn’t think is really all that good and I am over there jumping up and down saying that was a great job.
“Any young player that gets dealt around a few times, it is going to be a little bit of a blow. I don’t think it took a big hit, but I think his confidence has always been a little low. I just don’t think he knows how good he can be and I am going to try and help him realize it.”
After being bounced out of Milwaukee and cut by Houston, Leuer could not have landed in a better situation than Cleveland. The Cavaliers need the raw talent Leuer has and Coach Scott will work with the young man to drag it out of him. While he is not expected to start and he will still have to compete for minutes, Leuer is getting his chance to start over and that alone should boost his confidence.