CJ Leslie Should Make New York Knicks Roster Despite Going Undrafted

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 09:  C.J. Leslie #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack waits to shoot free throws against the Virginia Cavaliers during the Quarterfinals of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Philips Arena on March 9, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It is not easy for undrafted players to go on to have successful NBA careers. However, C.J. Leslie has a good chance to be an exception.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! was the first to report that the North Carolina State forward signed with the New York Knicks following the draft:

While the squad did finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference this past season, it still needs plenty of help going forward. Most importantly, it needs to get younger and more athletic.

This is exactly where Leslie can help the squad. The 22-year-old player was easily among the 60 best prospects in the draft, and he will prove to each team that passed on him that they made a mistake.

Throughout his career with the Wolfpack, Leslie displayed a wide range of skills that helped him become one of the top frontcourt players in the ACC and even in the country. In his final season, he averaged an impressive 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.

More impressive than his numbers, however, was his skill set at 6'9". According to DraftExpress, the athlete was able to post a max vertical leap of 40.5 inches in pre-draft workouts. This was one of the best in the class, and the highest for anyone taller than 6'7".

While a great leaping ability does not always translate into games for some players, Leslie showed off this skill on more than one occasion, including this monster dunk against Florida State:

However, the young player was more than just dunks. He was one of the quickest big men in the country who could get down the floor in a hurry. He showed off this skill at the NBA scouting combine, according to NBA.com Stats:

Additionally, his handle was outstanding for a player his size and often ran fast breaks for North Carolina State. His ball-handling ability and agility allow many to believe he could be a small forward at the next level after playing power forward in college. 

Playing the wing might actually be an improvement for Leslie after question marks about his strength and ability to score in the post. The only doubt is his shooting ability, although he showed a decent mid-range game last season with signs that he could eventually have range to the three-point line.

Last year, the Knicks had great production from a number of interesting sources. Players like Chris Copeland, James White and Pablo Prigioni exceeded expectations, while veterans like Kenyon Martin and others held up better than anyone could have anticipated.

It is tough to imagine all of these players coming through with similar performances this year, especially as the older ones start to regress. This will leave plenty of openings for a younger player like Leslie to get an opportunity.

Even if it the production stays the same, the fact that New York is willing to take a chance on these guys bodes well for an undrafted prospect attempting to make a roster.

Leslie has loads of talent, even if he did not always showcase it at North Carolina State. If given the opportunity, he could be a legitimate NBA starter at some point down the line.

The Knicks have already given him a chance by adding him to the summer league roster. There is little doubt he will not only make the team's roster at the start of the season, but will go on to be a solid contributor throughout the year as well.


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