Canada’s Leonard Miller is 2022 NBA Draft’s mystery man

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Leonard Miller is an intriguing NBA prospect.

Leonard Miller is an intriguing NBA prospect.
Image: Getty Images

The 2022 NBA Draft’s most enigmatic player has arrived.

Leonard Miller’s blank 247 Sports and Rivals pages are a tribute to how little he was recruited or scouted until recently. His Rivals recruiting page might as well be a ‘404 Not Found’ screen. He has no Rivals rating, no national rank and his ranking among small forwards is nil. The only bio information available lists him as a lanky 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward playing at Fort Erie International Academy in Toronto.

However, in the right-hand corner of the screen I noticed they’ve tabulated that he has 10 offers pending and the fan projection predicts he will be attending Kentucky. This has to be a long con. It’s not uncommon for some impetuous high school student-athlete to gin up attention for themselves by generating their own internet rumor mill.

Leonard Miller is a mundane enough name that it would be hard to suss out the ruse on Google. He’s a top plastic surgeons in Boston, a Florida-based CEO and an inductee into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame. There are four different Wikipedia pages for prominent Leonard Millers.

On April 23, a Leonard Miller who played sparingly off the bench for Canada’s Under-16 national team in 2019 declared for the NBA Draft. How is an unranked high school phenom from Canada entering the draft without Drake in his entourage? If this were an elaborate attention grab, the likely next development would be the creation of a Twitter page referring to himself as a ‘future NBA third-round pick’ in the bio.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. Miller is the real deal, and more. At 18, Leonard Miller would be one of the youngest players in the 2022 Draft, but he spent a postgraduate year at Fort Erie International Academy. In a league populated by skilled monoliths, Miller may be the next prospective unicorn to dock on the NBA’s shores. Two years ago, he was an unranked 6-foot-4 guard at Toronto’s Victory Rock Prep Academy and light years away from being on the NBA’s radar.

However, a six-inch growth spurt has lifted him to the highest levels of NBA discourse. As a fringe member of Canada’s FIBA U16 team in 2019 that advanced to the final, Miller was a 6-foot-7 reserve who saw fewer than eight minutes of action per game. He didn’t appear in any of the four significant rankings until On3 updated its 2022 player rankings to include him after being named to the National Prep Invitational’s All-Tournament team in February.

In November, TCU — where Leonard Miller’s brother Emmanuel is a junior — expressed the most serious interest. But after Leonard Miller scored 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting, drained two triples, logged five rebounds, two blocks and a steal against Team USA at the 2022 Nike Hoop Summit, the NBA Draft’s first round came into focus.

The basketball gods were generous to Miller. He is a shifty ball handler, lefty-dominant but ambidextrous, who has grown to 6-foot-11 and boasts a 7-foot-3 wingspan, yet still maneuvers like he’s a 6-foot-4 guard. During his post-grad season at The Ontario (CAN) Fort Erie Academy, Miller averaged 33 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Miller looks like an NBA 2K Created Player, initiating the offense but at nearly seven feet. His 7-foot-3 wingspan allows him to hook passes over the defense. Yet, he’s smooth enough to probe in and out of the lane or whips one-handed no-look passes to wide-open scorers with ease.

Miller told Prospective Insight that his NBA models were Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, James Harden, D’Angelo Russell and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His jumper is still slightly unorthodox but his form is more refined than it was when he built brick mansions at the 2019 FIBA U16 Tournament. Growing closer to the rim and engaging his lower body to drive upwards during his release has made him a more precise shooter.

“Even though I’m ambidextrous, I’m naturally a lefty so I also watch a lot of James Harden. He does my favorite shot a lot which is the step-back, so he’s definitely someone I study on film and try to dissect what he does. D’Angelo Russell is another lefty that I’ve always been drawn to. He has a certain swagger to his game that I like,” Miller said in November. “A fellow Canadian person that I like to watch and I feel is a very smooth player and just does what he does at a high level is Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander].”

Defensively, Miller’s agility, lateral quickness and length will make him an immediate asset to any switch-heavy defensive scheme. He was still visiting colleges in April and is still considering taking the G-League Ignite route. North American prospects don’t go from off-the-collegiate radar to first-round pick in two months. That’s typically reserved for off-the-beaten-path hoopers discovered overseas on the bench for some semi-pro B League in Europe or Asia.

The thing with most unicorns is that they don’t all pan out. For every tech unicorn that soars, venture capitalists pour equal amounts into belly flops. The principles that apply to venture capitalism translate to unicorn talent development as well. NBA teams investing in a unicorn spend years pouring resources such as shooting coaches, 1000s of hours in the lab working on their game and the patience to wait for a return on investment. Likewise, Leonard Miller could either be an advanced Giannis-prototype outlier or the next Thon Maker. Sometimes a unicorn is really just a horse with a calcified deformity on its face.

Miller has the tools to develop into a planet-destroying weapon on the wing, but first he’ll have to convince front offices that he’s worth a first-round valuation during the pre-draft evaluation period. Imagination has to fill the gaps where there’s a black hole of information.

Scouts will spend the next few months unearthing all the information they can find on Miller, consume video of him, chart his development, invite him for workouts and determine where his NBA readiness stands. Their imaginations will have to flesh out how far his potential stretches.

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