C.J. Leslie not getting drafted was one of the biggest surprises of the 2013 NBA draft. Aside from producing a solid stat line for the N.C. State Wolfpack in the ultra-tough ACC (15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals), the 22-year-old blew up the NBA Draft Combine.
He had the fastest lane agility time—regardless of position—a 40.5" vertical leap and he measured at 6'9" in shoes with a 7'2" wingspan, per Draft Express.
So why did 30 teams pass on his services?
Leslie is largely viewed as a tweener, a player who is a little short and thin for the power forward spot, but also devoid of the skills necessary to play the wing. While I agree with the former stigma, the belief that he can't be effective as a small forward isn't accurate.
Leslie played in the post with N.C. State primarily because the team needed him to, not because he didn't have the foundation to develop wing skills. Had he been given the opportunity to develop those skills, his draft fortunes could have changed.
Nonetheless, Leslie may have landed in a good spot. Adam Zagoria and Josh Newman of ZagsBlog report Leslie has signed with the New York Knicks as an undrafted free agent.
The video below is a highlight reel from his days as a prep star.
Obviously, the NBA—and even college—game is different than preps hoops, but it is clear from the video and combine numbers that Leslie has the agility to defend the 3 in the NBA.
The next step for him is developing a more consistent jump shot. He simply didn't shoot the three much in college. Leslie never averaged more than 0.9 attempts per game in his college career.
Honing his ball-handling skills is the next step, but both goals are attainable considering his physical gifts. If he works hard, he could be a major steal for the Knicks.
Leslie is clearly the best undrafted small forward from the 2013 draft class. Here's a look at the best undrafted players at other positions.
Point Guard: Myck Kabongo
The lead guard was the strongest position of the draft, and that had a lot to do with why Kabongo didn't hear his name called.
Once the second round started, teams seemed more comfortable with taking a chance on an international player they could draft-and-stash. Kabongo hails from Canada, but he attended Texas for two years, so he isn't considered a pure international prospect.
At 6'3", Kabongo has good size for the point guard position, and he showed the ability to get in the lane consistently.
He needs to improve his outside shooting a bit, but he has the talent to do that.
The best possible landing spots for Kabongo are with teams that have an established point guard. He needs to learn from a veteran and a strong coaching staff. Ultimately, he could take the reins from that vet and be the team's point guard of the future.
That sounds a lot like the San Antonio Spurs to me.
Shooting Guard: Michael Snaer
Which player will make the biggest impact in the NBA?
Snaer is a competitive leader who understands his game. He knows he is a jump-shooter who will make a living coming off screens. He reminds me a lot of Michael Redd who was the No. 43 pick overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2000.
Redd averaged 20 points per game for six-straight seasons in Milwaukee before knee issues forced a decline. I'm not implying that Snaer could be that type of player, but he can certainly help a team with his outside shooting.
He averaged 14.8 points per game for Florida State as a senior and knocked down 38.4 percent of his threes. Throughout his career with the Seminoles, Snaer proved he had the willingness to take and make clutch shots.
His maturity and basketball I.Q. will allow him to make an NBA roster if given the chance.
Power Forward: Richard Howell
Meet college basketball's version of Charles Oakley. Howell is built like a tank, but at just under 6'8" in shoes, teams shied away from him in the draft. He doesn't have great quickness or leaping ability, but few players are as strong.
Howell is a very good low-post defender, and he rebounds like a maniac. As a senior, he averaged 10.9 rebounds per game and played with the hustle and fire many teams will covet.
It appears the Denver Nuggets have been one of the first teams to recognize Howell's talents. The 22-year-old tweeted that he will be joining the Nuggets as an undrafted free agent:
Just got word ima have my shot wit the Denver Nuggets. I preciate that opportunity!! #savage— Rich Howell (@1richhowell) June 28, 2013
Whether Howell sticks in Denver remains to be seen, but if he brings the same passion to the preseason and workouts that he brought to the Wolfpack for four years, he should make an NBA roster.
Center: Zeke Marshall
Every true center that deserved to be drafted was selected. Of the bigs that didn't hear their name called, the Akron 7-footer has the tools to be the best of the undrafted.
Marshall's shot-blocking ability will translate to the NBA. He may not block 3.6 shots per game as he did as a senior for the Zips, but he will make his presence felt in that vein when he's on the floor.
In some ways he is similar to Los Angeles Clippers' center Ryan Hollins. When a 7-footer with good athleticism shows the ability to protect the rim, he will have an NBA career.
Marshall will prove himself to be that type of player.
He should be on the Miami Heat's radar. The team's lone weakness is the lack of a true center. Marshall is the type of player who could give the Heat valuable minutes off the bench—or even start if he picks things up quickly.
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