2016 PF prospect TJ Leaf hails from El Cajon, California. As a cerebral, well-rounded player, Leaf is one of the top prospects in the 2016 class and is drawing attention from some of the country’s best programs. Here’s a breakdown of Leaf’s game.
HS: Foothills Christian High School
AAU: Compton Magic
PGU Rank: GOLD
Skills: Dunk, Versatility, Range, Passing
#: 22 (HS), 23 (AAU)
Combo-forward with a power forward lean who attends Foothills Christian High School out of Lakeside, CA and runs with the Compton Magic in AAU play. Extremely rangy at 6’9 with fantastic touch on outside shots. Can bury it from the middle of the floor over tall defenders or use his hook shot down low to avoid contact and grab easy buckets. When anticipating passes his hands tend to be late to the ball allowing the defender to explode through him for easy steals.
Defensive rebounding while above average could suffer at the next level due to lack of size and physicality. He isn’t particularly aggressive on the defensive end but his help defense and blocking ability are above average. Opposing forwards with shooting touch will feast on his inability to man up. Excellent decision making skills at the forward position. Elite basketball IQ with the ability to set up a play from the perimeter or make quick over shoulder passes from the inside, makes opponents pay for turnovers and other mistakes. (9/13/14)
Besides his ability to shoot from all three levels, Leaf’s instinctual passing ability makes him a true offensive force from inside or outside. In this first clip we see TJ waiting baseline for the inbound pass; he pulls two defenders from their positions and doesn’t hesitate firing an over the shoulder pass directly to the trailing driver. This is a high level pass that could have easily been deflected had he waited for the play to develop.
This clip shows an off the block entry pass from #5 to TJ (great execution by TJ keeping his arms wide), he sticks the ball on the floor showing the defense he’s prepared to go up with a post move and just flings it to his teammate on the low block for the easy off-the-glass basket.
Not always a straight up and down defender but he is so patient when playing off ball that he commands respect on the defensive end, causing hesitation in the lane when players go up on him for layups and low-post moves. Here we see TJ easily bust through a screen that is poorly set up by #4 of the defense. I assume TJ saw or felt his teammate (#5) dancing towards the top of the key to execute the switch and noticed that #4 was unable to get through the lane without a difficult pass from #2. He stays with his man for the easy block and fast break. Note: This was definitely an ill-advised shot from #2.
Following the fast break, TJ watches the inbound pass and then follows the ball to a clear mismatch. Ball handler tries to get rid of the ball but TJ scoots up on him while keeping his hands low anticipating a pass causing the turnover and quick pass on the fast break.
Keeps his balance in the paint forcing the ball handler to make a tough shot, blocking it and tapping it to one of his teammates.
TJ needs to work on his footwork inside but he does excel scoring in the post especially when receiving the ball below the elbow and in the lane. The entry pass in this clip is solid but TJ’s ability to keep the ball off his body with his outside hand creates some space between him and the defender resulting in the easy hook/one handed shot.
Great feel for his elbow jumper. Here he backs the defender down feeling his way to the low block and then burns him with a quick turn around jumper.
TJ isn’t a naturally bouncy post player but will keep his shoulders square and elbows out to keep the defender from poking. Generally has a good idea of when to put the ball on the ground in the post and has an eye for off the glass runners.
Natural touch on his outside shot, can fake out with his hesitation move thanks to his above average ball handling skills for a 6-9 forward. Will stretch defenses in college, opposing forwards will have to respect his ability to pull up at the three point line.
An efficient ball handler with closing force, he can bring the ball up from half court and dissect the defense. Often picks up his dribble which leads to easily avoidable turnovers; tends to put the ball in front of himself.
An extremely intelligent offensive player and it especially shows in off-ball situations when he is at the top of the key. In the clip below he sets a fake screen keeping his eyes on the ball the entire time. This pseudo pick and roll allows him to flank the defense and get into the air before the defender can close.