CJ Leslie

PF North Carolina State 6'9” 205 lbs 9/24/91

 

Offense: One of the more underrated players in college basketball over the past couple seasons, Leslie has a complete offensive game and plays inside-out; his ability to get to the hoop off the dribble sets up everything else Leslie looks to do offensively.

 

Leslie has a quick first step and is comfortable attacking the rim with either hand. Once at the hoop, he is an incredibly strong finisher, somewhat surprising given his lanky frame. He finishes well through contact, and although he is an average free throw shooter at best (61% this year) he does not shy away from the free throw line down the stretch of close games.

 

Despite lacking top-end athleticism, Leslie is misleadingly explosive and gets high above the rim to finish; he has one or two momentum-changing dunks for the Wolfpack every game, and his teammates look to him to bring energy as well as playmaking.

 

Because of his overall talent and ability to attack the rim, Leslie’s mere presence opens up driving and passing lanes for teammates. He only averages 1.5 assists per game, but sets up at least a third of NC State’s 15 per game—7 of these from Lorenzo Brown, the dominant ball-handler—with his playmaking ability.

 

He is a good, not great shooter with somewhat limited range—only 33% from 3 this season—but has a solid in-between game and makes the right play almost all the time, and is especially effective at the drive and kick.

 

In an effort to make the right play, Leslie sometimes loses his aggressiveness in big situations when the opposing defense is especially focused on him, and this sheds light on his general struggles with consistency at times. He sometimes becomes frustrated within the flow of the offense, and disappears for stretches of the game. He must get rid of this habit moving forward.

 

In general, however, Leslie’s offensive game is incredibly well rounded. He is comfortable all over the floor, moves well without the ball, and has good vision. He is not a huge factor in on-ball screens, as either the screener or ball-handler, but comes off screens away from the ball very well, and this in fact is where his jumper is most consistent.

 

Like many athletic wings, Leslie’s jumper tends to get flatter as he moves further away from the hoop, and range will be a question mark at the next level, as teams will sag off and dare him to shoot. His facilitating ability will then become even more important, as teams will be unable to sag if he exploits the passing lanes created as a result. Leslie will struggle when his drive is cut off, although this may not be a major issue as most of the time he should be able to get to the rim.

 

Leslie is not always the most willing passer, and shows questionable shots selection especially when he is frustrated within the flow of a game. This will certainly be something to track moving forward.

 

At 6’9, he has ideal size, quickness and skill level to become a contributing NBA wing, but his ball handling may become and issue. He often dribbles too straight up, leaving him prone to the quick hands of perimeter defenders.

 

Despite lacking a go-to move with his back to the basket, Leslie has shown an effective post game at times this year, and seems to have a good understanding of matchups and where on the floor to best take advantage of them. He was a matchup nightmare in college, and while this will be much less of the case moving forward, his well-rounded game will always keep defenses honest inside the arc.

 

 

 

Strengths:

 

  • -       Well- rounded offensive game
  • -       Facilitator: makes plays for himself and others
  • -       Prototypical NBA wing
  • -       Great finisher

 

Weaknesses:

 

  • -      Questionable shot-selection at times
  • -       Inconsistency
  • -       Ball-handling is a concern if he is to become an NBA wing

 

 

 

 

 

Defense: Much like his offensive game, Leslie does a little bit of everything on the defensive end. On-ball, he sometimes gets happy feet but has the quickness and elevation to recover from little mistakes. He has very good length and often guarded the opponent’s best scorer while at NC State. While he likely will not face this sort of burden moving forward, he does have the potential to be a defensive stopper.

 

Especially when struggling offensively, Leslie seems to lose focus on the defensive side of the ball. He becomes noticeably slower in his rotations, especially when forced to fight through screens and other off-ball action. Furthermore, he tends to commit “lazy” fouls rather than really get down and defend, which only serves to increase his frustration

 

While Leslie’s happy feet are occasionally an issue defensively, they are also a reflection of his good lateral quickness and explosiveness. He does very well to shut off opposing penetration, and uses his length to eliminate passing lanes and force ball swings or resets.

 

Leslie is an effective off-ball defender, and uses his explosiveness and anticipation to block and alter countless shots as a help side defender in the post. On the perimeter, he occasionally gets overaggressive—both in on-ball and off-ball situations—but his length and active hands lead to deflections and a general disruption of the opponents’ offensive flow.

 

He struggles with major size down low and will have to put on weight moving forward, but this may be easier said than done. Since many of Leslie’s strengths defensively surround his ability to move his feet and get off the floor, he must be careful not to eliminate these advantages when hitting the weight room.

 

Leslie’s size and length—6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan—make him well suited to play the 4 at the college level, and indeed this was NC State’s most effective lineup this season. Due to his consistent defensive positioning, as well as his ability to elevate quickly, Leslie gathered a very solid 7.4 boards this year, despite not consistently giving maximum effort.

 

Leslie has the tools to continue to put up effective rebounding numbers at the next level, but it remains to be seen how hard he wants to work in this area. If he ups his effort level and continues to improve, Leslie can be a good rebounder from either the 3 or 4 spot moving forward.

 

Leslie has more upper body strength than his frame would suggest, but will still need to put on weight moving forward if he is to be the sort of undersized 4 that many teams are beginning to target. If he pursues more of a role as a wing—and again this decision is largely dependent on the team who drafts him—Leslie won’t necessarily have to add weight, but with have more of an onus to prove he can defend quicker wings.

 

This versatility is a strength of Leslie’s but may also become an issue; he risks falling into a tweener spot, and not being able to consistently defend either position at the next level. At the end of the day, Leslie is a good enough athlete to be effective defensively from either spot if he wants to be, with his combination of quickness to guard bigger wings and elevation and strength to guard the post even in isolations.

 

 

 

Strengths:

 

  • -       Good length and athleticism
  • -       Quick on his feet
  • -       Does a little bit of everything

 

Weaknesses:

 

  • -       Loses focus, especially when struggling offensively
  • -       Must put on weight to compete at next level; how will this impact his game?
  • -       Can he defend at a high enough level to see consistent minutes?

 

 

 

Overall: While he seems to have the build of many NBA wings, Leslie may actually be viewed by many teams as more of a power forward in the current NBA landscape. He will be most effective as a wing, but this versatility is part of what makes Leslie a sure-fire pick in the 2013 draft.

 

When playing well and maintaining focus, Leslie contributes in a variety of ways on both sides of the ball. He is a playmaker offensively, mostly looking for his shot but also with the ability to open lanes and make plays for teammates.

 

Defensively, Leslie is a solid on-ball defender with great length and elevation, and can be a disruptive force when he wants to be. Unfortunately, he has not yet shown that he wants to defend consistently enough for him to crack the top 20 in this draft.

 

He is a strong finisher, and while his jumper and ball handling both lack consistency, he will be able to thrive in the right environment with the right coach. This is why Leslie’s questionable draft position may in fact benefit him; if he can convince one of the leagues better, more stable teams to take a chance on him at the end of the 1st round, Leslie has the potential to turn himself into a solid contributor at the next level.