While New York Knicks fans and analysts debated the team’s decision to draft Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks didn’t stop with just one rookie. Early in the morning, the Knicks and North Carolina State forward C.J. Leslie reached a deal. The NC State forward was expected to go sometime in the mid-second round, but to the surprise of many, didn’t land with any teams.
Leslie is a hair under 6’9″ and weighs about 209 lb. His combine measurements were impressive with a 7’2″ wingspan, 8’9″ standing reach, and 40″ max. vertical. In college, Leslie played the power forward, but his size may move him to the the three in NBA, perhaps only seeing action at the four in smaller lineups.
If Leslie were entering a situation where he needs to be immediately relied upon for big minutes, then his overall skill package would be slightly disconcerting. According to his draft profile, Leslie possesses an inconsistent jumper and some under-developed post moves, other than a drop hook over his left shoulder. He’s quicker than most other positional players he faces, but his face-up game can be hindered by his inconsistent jumper and iffy ball-handling. But these are greater concerns for a player who had an extremely high usage rate as the go-to man on his college team. This will not be his position with the Knicks. And even despite the criticism for his offensive game, he still managed 15 points per game on better than 51% shooting his sophomore and junior years.
Defensively, Leslie brings some of what the Knicks could use. He’s a good rebounder, collecting 7.2 per game for his career at NCSU, and his physical tools allow him to be a pest in the passing lanes and around the rim where his length and leaping ability makes him a shot-blocking threat. He averaged 1 steal and 1.4 blocks per game in his college career.
Overall, it’s a low risk move for the Knicks, who didn’t need to give away anything to get him in the draft; Leslie is likely signed to an non-guaranteed, minimum deal. Many people are applauding the Knicks for the move and it does seem like a good one. At best, Leslie can crack the rotation, offer the Knicks some points out of the post, in a face-up game, or, hopefully, in transition where he’s one of the best athletes. He can rebound the ball and give some weakside help on defense.