- Measurables: 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, junior forward from NC State
- Key Stats: 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game; 52 percent shooting.
- Projected: Second round
- Hickory High Similarity Score
Hey, this guy sounds familiar. Here is what I wrote about him last year before he decided against entering the draft:
Leslie’s tantalizing size and athleticism will surely make NBA teams fall in love with him. But his perimeter game, which is still in need of some refinement, might push him into being a second round pick despite having first round athleticism.
Leslie was considered a fringe first round pick last season in a deeper draft. If he’s around in the second round this season, he’d be tough for the Pistons to pass up.
Fits with the Pistons because …
Adding Leslie to a team that already features Andre Drummond would immediately make the Pistons give the Pistons two of the best freak athletes in the league. At a minimum, Leslie runs well, jumps well and finishes well. If they play faster under Maurice Cheeks (please play faster!), and if they bring back Jose Calderon or replace him with a similarly good passing point guard, the Pistons would be really fun to watch with a player like Leslie added to the mix. He’d surely get the team easy baskets and highlight reel plays, which could earn him more minutes as he works on the weaker points of his game.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
It’s not that Leslie didn’t improve this season, it’s just that he didn’t make the huge leap many expected. He returned to NC State after a promising sophomore season, but he and the team largely disappointed. Leslie’s three-point percentage did improve slightly (though he doesn’t shoot many), but there were only very small incremental increases in his overall counting stats despite playing more minutes. I touched on it in the Glen Rice Jr. profile yesterday, but playing in the NCAA for programs that lack structure often stunts the growth of elite prospects. Perhaps Leslie getting into a pro environment that holds him to higher standards will bring out the best in him. The Pistons were patient with Drummond last season (probably too patient), but that approach might work well for another super talented but sometimes underachieving prospect in Leslie.
From the Experts:
Leslie’s terrific athletic numbers reminded scouts he might be one of the three or four best athletes in the draft and alleviated fears that he wouldn’t have the lateral quickness to guard shooting guards in the NBA. His combine-best 10.19-second score on the lane agility drill, combined with a huge vertical leap and a big wingspan, have teams curious. If he can go into workouts and shut down the other small forwards in the workouts, he’s going to be a lock for the first round.
On a personal level, many of the questions that hounded Leslie during his first two seasons remain. The lanky 6’9″ combo forward maintains a very intriguing physical package, with good length and incredible athletic gifts. His physical profile remains the basis of his intrigue as a draft prospect, and should he develop his skills, show a strong work ethic and maintain his focus, there’s more than ample physical talent to play a long time at the next level. It’s utilizing this physical talent that Leslie has struggled with.
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