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Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: C.J. Leslie

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag


  • Measurables: 6-foot-8, 209 pounds, sophomore forward from NC State
  • Key Stats: 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks per game, 53 percent shooting, 29 percent 3-point shooting
  • Projected: Late first round to early second round

Why he is intriguing

Leslie is a freak of an athlete who is capable of displaying boundless energy and impacting the stat sheet in a variety of ways. He’s also still prone to the immaturity of youth, though. As a prized high school recruit, he de-committed from NC State before eventually re-committing. Last year, he also decided for some reason that it would be a good idea to post his anti-gay thoughts publicly on Twitter. Note to athletes: that probably won’t end well.

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.

Pros for the Pistons

Like yesterday’s prospect, Darius Miller, Leslie fulfills a need for the Pistons: speed and athleticism on the perimeter. But while Miller’s next level skills are pretty defined — he’ll provide shooting, passing and play hard — Leslie is more hard to quantify.

He’s a good rebounder for a wing player. He’s lanky and athletic and blocks shots. He has the physical tools to become a good defensive player. He is capable of playing with boundless energy, he’s one of the best in the country at running the floor and he finishes well. Although he plays some in the post at NC State, he also has the necessary ball-handling skills to play most of his minutes at the three as a pro. All of those skills are certainly things the Pistons could use.

Cons for the Pistons

Unlike Miller, Leslie doesn’t add a floor-stretching presence. With Austin Daye‘s shot off all year and the futures of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon uncertain, the Pistons could use more shooters to take pressure off of Greg Monroe if he’s doubled in the post and help open more driving lanes for Rodney Stuckey. It’s easy to envision Leslie finishing off great passes from either of those players, but as a 29 percent 3-point shooter, it’s also easy to see his defenders sagging off of him to give extra help on Stuckey or Monroe.

Also, though he’s not quite as frail as Daye was coming out of college, Leslie needs to get significantly stronger if he’s going to hold his own defensively against some of the stronger wing players in the league. He’s also more of a hybrid forward, a role the Pistons already have filled with Jonas Jerebko. He, like Jerebko, might be most effective switching back and forth between forward spots depending on matchups. The Pistons could really use a player who could become a permanent fixture at SF and possibly push Tayshaun Prince for the starting spot down the road. Leslie could be that player, but he might not be skilled enough offensively to be only a SF at this point. He’s also a bad free throw shooter at 59 percent.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

Leslie came out of high school with a checkered rep. He was regarded as one of the most athletic prospects in his class. But his attitude and indifference on the court raised eyebrows. As a freshman he showed both his potential and his potholes. As a sophomore, Leslie has made major strides in his game and in his consistency.

For two straight games in the tournament, against San Diego State and Georgetown (and along with some stellar play in the ACC tournament against North Carolina and Virginia), Leslie carried the Wolfpack and now has them in the Sweet 16. Scouts love Leslie’s length and athletic ability. But it’s his newfound toughness and aggressiveness on the court that’s led to them warming up quickly to him. Leslie still is a work in progress, but virtually every general manager I spoke with this weekend had him ranked somewhere in the late-teens to the 20s on their boards.


Possessing all the physical tools necessary to be successful on that end of the floor, Leslie would benefit from playing a role that would allow him to capitalize on his athleticism in transition while affording him a chance to develop a comfort level as a face-up scorer from the midrange.

Defensively, Leslie is limited to some degree by his lack of bulk, but is mostly inhibited by his inconsistent motor. By no means is he an incapable defender, as he’s been terrific for stretches, using his length to block shots at the rim and his quickness to deny dribble penetration, but he has not consistently competed with an intensity that let him get the most out of his abilities.


He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble from about the foul line extended, and can finish strong around the rim in a variety of different ways … Shows the potential to develop a jump shot, but still has a ways to go before it becomes a weapon … He runs the floor well for a 6’9 forward and is an easy and big target on the break for his point guard as he can get up and catch anything around the basket … All the tools to be a great shotblocker on and off the ball … High motor guy who brings energy and explosiveness that can liven up his team and the crowd


Gottfried told reporters Saturday that he refuses to call Leslie “C.J.” because of the criticism he heard about the 6-foot-8 forward after he seized control of the program. He calls him by his first name, Calvin.

“When I took this job, every time I turned around somebody was making a negative comment about C.J. Leslie: Doesn’t play hard. He’s disinterested. You’re not going to be able to reach him,” Gottfried said prior to his team’s win over Georgetown. “So my thing was it’s time for a change. It’s time for you to have a fresh start. So for me we’ll change your name.”

Leslie said Gottfried focused on the strengths of every player on the roster and implemented them within his system. That approach helped players cling to Gottfried.

“He did a good job of just knowing everybody [personally]. That’s the start of it. Just getting to know everybody and what they can do best,” Leslie said during Saturday’s media session.

Fayeteville Observer:

Leslie has faced plenty of adversity at N.C. State, from dealing with various suspensions to handling the constant questioning of his maturity and effort. Yow earned his trust by continuing to support him through times good and bad.

“I think he has an innate sense of how much I care about him as a person,” Yow said.

What is the best thing C.J. Leslie does for his team?

Josh Parcell (follow him on Twitter) writes for ACC Mania, contributes to HoopSpeak and will be joining ESPN in June in the Stats & Info Dept.:

C.J. Leslie is an absolute phenom from a shear athletic standpoint. His greatest strength is the ability to make those “wow” plays — whether it’s his lightning-quick drop-step, an offensive putback in traffic, or a blocked shot from seemingly out of nowhere. He showed a budding post-up game as a sophomore, but he won’t have the luxury of being guarded by power forwards in the NBA. He has the God-given tools to enjoy a long career in the league, but lingering commitment and focus concerns will scare some front offices away.



  • Mar 30, 20121:43 pm
    by frankie d


    walter sharpe, anyone?

  • Mar 30, 20124:01 pm
    by sop


    Latest list

    1.     Anthony Davis
    2.     Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
    3.     Bradley Beal
    4.     Andre Drummond
    5.     Thomas Robinson
    6.     Jared Sullinger
    7.     Harrison Barnes
    8.     Cody Zeller
    9.     Perry Jones III
    10.  James McAdoo
    11.  Terrence Jones
    12.  Tyler Zeller
    13.  Jeremy Lamb
    14.  John Henson
    15.  Kendal Marshall
    16.  Terrence Ross
    17.  Austin Rivers
    18.  Quincy Miller
    19.  Meyers Leonard
    20.  Damian Lillard
    21.  Tony Wroten Jr.
    22.  Dion Waiters
    23.  Marquis Teague
    24.  Deshaun Thomas
    25.  Jeffery Taylor
    26.  Mason Plumlee
    27.  Tyshaun Taylor
    28.  Doron Lamb
    29.  John Jenkins
    30.  C.J. Leslie
    31.  Arnett Moultrie
    32.  Jarnell Stokes
    33.  Draymond Green
    34.  Andrew Nicholson
    35.  Scott Machado
    36.  Kevin Jones
    37.  Fab Melo
    38.  Royce White
    39.  Moe Harkless
    40.  Tony Mitchell
    41.  Trey Burke
    42.  Will Barton
    43.  Jae Crowder
    44.  Reggie Bullock
    45.  Darius Johnson-Odom
    46.  Marcus Denmon
    47.  Chane Behanen
    48.  Jordan Taylor
    49.  Orlando Johnson
    50.  Isaiah Canaan
    51.  Festus Ezeli
    52.  Mike Moser
    53.  Kenny Boynton
    54.  CJ McCollum
    55.  Jamychal Green
    56.  William Buford
    57.  Kris Joseph
    58.  Adonis Thomas
    59.  Renardo Sidney
    60.  Darius Miller

  • Mar 31, 201212:15 am
    by Truett


    Why dont you do one on perry jones, jared sullinger, or terrance jones? at lest one of these players should be available when detroit picks and they all have a decent complimentary skill set for the way detroit plays.. Personally I think that Detroit is one of the better spots spot for Perry Jones to land in (obv we would rather like a top three pick, but we keep winning!) because he can pass, drive, and shoot from outside leaving Greg more room to work inside..Sullinger can shoot from outside too and Jones can back up prince and play some 4 as well.

    • Mar 31, 20129:27 am
      by sebastian


      Truett, I too have been telling folks that Joe should draft PJIII for all of the reasons that you have noted. Scouting reports keep referring to his tendency to disappear in games, but when he starts getting paid, I don’t think he will be MIA.
      PJIII is what WE need at the “3″!
      Joe can find a big in the next round or in free agency (McGee).

  • Apr 1, 20123:03 am
    by Truett


    Perry jones is not a three… he is a face up, pick and pop type four… he is also pretty bad at the whole team D concept… if he is trying to fight through screens and switch on the perimeter its gonna be bad… that said I like him as a pick too. Why do people want to draft a SF when we have Prince and Jerebko under contract for like the next 20 years?

  • Apr 10, 201312:14 am
    by Win On Quibids


    Usually I don’t post on blogs, but I want to say that this article incredibly forced me to complete so! Thanks, quite nice article.

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