Watching the draft in its entirety, I found it surprising that a player with the physical tools and athleticism of CJ Leslie was left on the board. Leslie, a 6-9 SF/PF from NC State, averaged just over 15 points and 7 boards a game for the Wolfpack this past season. Leslie, who was projected as an early-mid second round pick, possesses an intriguing combination of length and athletic ability.
Considered a “tweener” by many NBA scouts, Leslie could pose major matchup problems on the offensive end. His quick first-step makes him a difficult guard for many power forwards, while his size and explosiveness would make him a difficult cover for small forwards. Also, Leslie likes to get out in transition and finish on the break, making him a valuable asset at the next level. He is a quick leaper and excels on the offensive glass. Leslie’s perimeter game is still a work in progress, but this is the case for many players entering the league. With repetition and solid coaching, he has the tools to turn into a decent shooter. Leslie will need to commit to improving on this facet of his game to better his chances of making an NBA roster.
Most scouts felt as if they had not seen substantial improvement from Leslie during his time at NC State. While acknowledging his above average physical makeup, many people have questioned his motor and work ethic. This could be a major reason why he didn’t hear his named called on draft night. Leslie has also been known to shy away from contact and play soft on the defensive end. If played at the power forward position, this would be a major concern. You cannot compound a disadvantage being undersized with not wanting to play physical on defense.
If fully engaged, CJ Leslie could bring a dose of youth and energy to the Knicks front court. Front court help is definitely in demand with many uncertainties surrounding the aging Marcus Camby, constant health problems of STAT, and unclear future of K-Mart. To make it in the NBA, Leslie will need to reach his full potential and capitalize on his physical gifts. He could find himself as a rotation player and contributor if he continues to polish and fine-tune his game.