Illinois Center Meyers Leonard Visiting Mavs

Last we checked, the Mavs didn't believe this draft featured a rotation-ready center. But today, Illinois center Meyers Leonard - a sure-fire first-round pick - is Dallas-bound. What's changed? Well, the 7-footer has been impressive in workouts. Oh, and his agent happens to be Jeff Schultz, who also reps Deron Williams ...

On the eve of the Scouting Combine in Chicago, a Dallas Mavericks source told me that the club already had a fairly good grasp of the centers available and that it was unlikely that an immediate rotation player was among them.

Has that changed?

In the last week, Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard has vaulted from being projected as a late-first-rounder to a certain first-rounder to a possible lotto pick.

At one time, if the Mavs wanted somebody like him in the draft on June 28, it was going to be doable at No. 17.

And now, after the Combine and with Leonard touring the NBA, which includes a workout today in Dallas?

"I think I showed some versatility," Leonard says of his Combine performance. "My ability to step out and shoot the ball, my ability to run the floor and be a little more agile than most guys my size, and my athleticism has definitely shown a bit in these workouts.''

Leonard is just a kid, but he was measured at 7-1 (the tallest guy at the Combine) and 250 pounds. He calmly talks of NBA players whose style he emulates, and he drops the names of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and, yes, Tyson Chandler.

"I think the way Joakim Noah plays with passion and a lot of energy and tenacity, I model my game around that a bit," Leonard said. "Tyson Chandler, his ability to be a backstop to the defense and block shots and be a good on-the-ball defender, is something I strive to do. ... A goal for me in the future is to be as skilled as Pau Gasol in the post, his footwork and to be able to face up and shoot."

Leonard may be long gone by the time Dallas' No. 17 turn comes up; Milwaukee at 12 reportedly covets him. And there may be a long wait before he's truly ready, as this has been quite a vault over the course of just one week for the 20-year-old.

Leonard's climb up various mock drafts has nothing to do with his representation, of course. But it is worth noting that the Illinois guy not only shares an alma mater with Deron Williams but also an agent in Jeff Schultz.

Time will tell if he actually shares anything with Gasol, Noah or Chandler. But scouting reports do note his wing span and rim-protection skills as a defender and some prototypical NBA traits on the offensive end, including a back-to-the-basket game (with a jumphook) and some skills in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. He's got a decent vertical of 30 inches and a frame that should allow him to get much bigger. His numbers last year (13 points, eight rebounds) might take a while to translate to the NBA level ...

But the Mavs are obviously more convinced than they were a week ago that any center's college numbers might indeed translate.

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