Breaking Down How C.J. Leslie's Hand Injury Impacts 2013 NBA Draft Stock

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Breaking Down How C.J. Leslie's Hand Injury Impacts 2013 NBA Draft Stock

North Carolina State forward C.J. Leslie is expected to skip the drilling portion of the NBA combine after spraining his hand, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.

He will participate in the athletic testing and interviews, two stations at the combine that don't require basketballs.

Wojnarowski reported that two teams drafting in the mid-20s don't believe Leslie will be there by the time they're on the clock.

If that is indeed the case, then this hand injury should have absolutely zero impact on his draft stock. Even if Wojnarowski's sources were just playing the smokescreen game, this minor injury still won't affect how teams view Leslie as a prospect.

His hand is expected to be fully healed for individual workouts with teams, which are really the only auditions that truly move the needle.

The drilling at the combine, particularly for someone like Leslie, who's been a prominent figure in college basketball for three years, is fairly insignificant. Scouts have hundreds of hours of game film at their disposal—a couple of dribbling and shooting drills wouldn't have swayed anyone's opinion on his NBA outlook.

When teams bring in Leslie for a workout, they'll customize it to test out specific skills in repetition, as opposed to the combine where the drilling is more general and spaced out.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

In Wojnarowski's report, he mentioned that one league personnel director told him that Leslie and Nerlens Noel "rate as the two most explosive athletes in this year's draft class." While Anthony Bennett might have something to say about that, it just goes to show how much the NBA values athleticism.

Leslie's most glaring red flag is his lack of a true position. Though his specific game is built for the power-forward role, he measures in around 6'8'', 200 pounds, and he's never averaged more than 7.4 rebounds per game.

His size suggests he plays small forward at the next level, however, his skill set does not. Leslie struggles playing on the perimeter, without the ball-handling or outside stroke (only 13 made threes in three years at NC State) that most NBA wings require.

 

Draft Stock

It's tough to put a finger on Leslie's stock at the moment. According to Wojnarowski, some believe he's a mid-first rounder. Others, myself included, believe he's more of a second-round pick considering the risk he presents.

I like to compare Leslie to Hakim Warrick, a former college stud with nearly identical physical tools. Unfortunately, those tools never translated for Warrick, who wasn't strong enough to bang inside and lacked the skill set of a 3.

Warrick did go No. 19 in the 2005 first round. Sometimes, teams will take a chance on athleticism with hopes that the skills develop and follow.

Would you use a first-round pick on C.J Leslie?

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All it takes is for one team to fall in love with Leslie's athleticism, and a minor hand injury won't change that.

Personally, I fell off Leslie's bangwagon after seeing little progression over a three-year span. I'm also worried about him falling into the "tweener" category, stuck between the 3 and 4 positions.

But there's no doubt he'll be targeted by some on draft day. The Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards are all teams that lack athleticism up front that might give Leslie a look in the late-first or early-second round.

He averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds on 51.9 percent shooting and 61.2 percent from the free-throw line as a junior, and should be considered a high-risk, high-reward option on draft day.

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