ESPN Insider: Free-agent Jon Leuer a ‘potential steal’

Jun 30, 2016, 8:00 AM | Updated: 11:29 am
Phoenix Suns' Jon Leuer, right, shoots over Toronto Raptors' Patrick Patterson during the second ha...
Phoenix Suns' Jon Leuer, right, shoots over Toronto Raptors' Patrick Patterson during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP)

Coming off the most productive season of his career, Suns free agent Jon Leuer could be a potential steal for a team in need of a second-tier power forward.

That is, at least, what ESPN’s Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi put forth in a list of the 11 most underrated NBA free agents. According to the two writers, Leuer might be the Suns’ most pleasant surprise last season.

After averaging 11.9 minutes per game in four seasons with the Bucks, Cavaliers and Grizzlies, Leuer joined the Suns last year and saw career-high minutes at 18.7 per game. In 67 games and 27 starts, he shot 48.1 percent and averaged 5.6 rebounds and 8.5 points per game.

The ESPN piece said that the extra playing time is to thank for Leuer’s uptick in production.

Already on his fourth team in five seasons, Leuer hasn’t exactly been a prized asset thus far in his career. But when given significant playing time for the first time in the 2015-16 season, Leuer stepped up his game. The journeyman big grabbed a very respectable 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes of play. He logged a decent rate of steals, blocks and assists and kept turnovers to a minimum. Perhaps best of all, Leuer took almost one-fourth of his shot attempts from beyond the arc and converted an impressive 38 percent from distance. The lowly Suns were outscored by only three points per 100 possessions with Leuer on the floor, which gave him the team’s second-best on-off mark, behind Eric Bledsoe.

The writers used real plus-minus (RPM) to find under-the-radar players, a metric for estimating the impact a player has on his team.

Leuer also posted an RPM rating of -0.2, just below league average — an excellent mark for a rotation player. Such a solid contributor off the bench, he’d still be grossly underpaid if his salary were to triple this summer from the $1 million he made last season.

Given that Suns head coach Earl Watson benched Leuer in 14 of the team’s last 40 games, Phoenix could be reluctant to bring back the 27-year-old.

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ESPN Insider: Free-agent Jon Leuer a ‘potential steal’