C.J. Leslie: One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Upside (Or Something Like That)

Going into last Thursday, many expected C.J. Leslie to be among the select few to hear their name called on draft night. The wiry combo forward’s basketball skill was still deemed raw by NBA scouts after a disappointing year for NC State, but Leslie’s physical tools were impossible to ignore. Besides, after supposedly receiving a promise from a team in the second round, he seemed a lock to be chosen. Either way, when Latvia’s Janis Timma came off the board to the Memphis Grizzlies with the 60th and final pick to conclude the event, Leslie found himself as a man without a team; probably near a silent phone and pondering life as an undrafted rookie in the NBA.

Prior to draft night, the Knicks, who selected Michigan shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. with the 24th pick, were reportedly looking into making a deal for a second round pick. In a draft where talents such as Jeff Withey, Nate Wolters, and Tony Mitchell slid out of the first round, a second rounder would have been percious, but GM Glen Grunwald couldn’t get anyone to bite. Still in need of help at the forward position, Grunwald extended his hand to Leslie, signing him to the team and adding him to this year’s Summer League roster.

At 6-9, 209 pounds, the first thing you notice about Leslie is his athleticism. His 7′ 2.25″ wingspan is an awesome tool, and in combination with his explosive leaping ability, recorded a 12′ 1″ max reach vertical; the highest of any participant in 2013 Pre-Draft Combine. To put that in perspective, he can essentially reach the space in-between the white rectangle behind the rim and the top of the backboard. He’s also remarkably fast, as he completed the Combine agility drill in 10.19 seconds, also the best of the event. He even finished second in the three-quarter sprint with a time of 3.10 seconds, just behind Shane Larkin’s 3.08 seconds. More