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Adam Gold

Leslie's fate not surprising

Posted June 28, 2013

This just in: scouts watch games.

In spite of an elite level of athleticism that two different NBA scouts raved to me about, C.J. Leslie went undrafted Thursday night. And although Leslie was signed as a free agent by the New York Knicks, there is no guaranteed money and no assurance that when the curtain goes up on Broadway for the start of the 2013-14 season that Leslie will be in a Knicks uniform.

How is this possible for a player of Leslie's size and athletic ability?

Scouts watch games.

Early in his freshman year, Leslie was listed among the most sought-after prospects by people who make their living ranking such things. At 6-foot-9 with the ability to run the floor and handle the ball in the open court, Leslie possessed almost everything that the NBA has traditionally found irresistible.

In fact, scouts have specifically placed him in the upper 1 percent of athletes in terms of prospects playing at the collegiate level. But, scouts watch games.

And a funny thing happened during Leslie's freshman season. As he coasted through the final year of the Sidney Lowe era, C.J.'s "stock" fell. Actually, plummeted is probably a better word. Sporadic effort, dubious decision-making and a work-ethic that was called into question became more than just a rumor. It became a label. And once you have that tattooed on your dossier, it takes a whole lot of Oxy to clean it up. Because…

Scouts watch games.

In Mark Gottfried's first year, C.J. became "Calvin" and, subsequently, there was an obvious attitude adjustment. Leslie's compete level seemed to rise, he appeared to avoid the valleys that were seemingly a part of his nature the previous season and scouts started to take notice. However, the inconsistency returned as a junior, and it was exacerbated by the fact that C.J. continued to show considerable on-court frustration with officials and occasionally teammates, that led teams to question whether or not a player with such enormous physical gifts would ever be committed enough to trust with guaranteed money.

Yes, I'm aware that it's beneficial to the player to not be drafted in the 2nd round as it gives you the power and freedom to choose your destination. And, you can argue that Leslie is in a better situation than his former teammate, Lorenzo Brown (drafted by Minnesota at number 52), or even Duke's Ryan Kelly (taken by the Lakers four slots earlier).

Wait, Ryan Kelly was drafted? But, I thought you said that scouts watched games? Did they only see one of them involving Kelly?

Ahhhhh, maybe you're on to something here. Yes, Ryan Kelly's career at Duke was marred by a series of foot injuries, and those don't always go away when you're talking about a player standing 7-feet tall. On top of that, Kelly is not exactly swift of foot, or particularly agile, or an elite athlete, so it's fair to wonder how a player with a long history of injuries combined with the lack of other NBA-caliber qualities could be more attractive than the potential of a player like Leslie.

First, in the case of Kelly, there is the fact that there just aren't many 7-footers who can shoot the ball from the perimeter like Ryan. And, in the NBA, there is no substitution for a player who can simply make shots. More importantly though, may be the reputation of the program – not to mention the coach – from which he emerged. Duke has stocked the NBA with talent over the last two decades, and while there aren't necessarily stars, there are solid contributing players with a strong foundation.

Mark Gottfried just endured a season in which the overwhelming majority of experts felt that the Wolfpack grossly underachieved. In fact, Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose specifically addressed that during ESPN's coverage of the draft last night. What impact that had on the interest-level of Leslie, Brown and Richard Howell (who also signed as an undrafted free agent, with Denver) is impossible to measure. However, it's fair to at least consider that the erratic performance of the team might have had some impact, no matter how slight.

Roughly 200 NBA scouts saw Duke games this season and it's fair to assume that a similar number were on hand to see the Wolfpack this year alone. The college season is nothing compared to the grind of the pro game. Teams will only play in the neighborhood of 35 games stretched over a five month period. At the highest level, those same players will be asked to compete against greater competition as many as 100 times in a little more than seven months. Coaching effort is not something they like to do in the NBA.

This doesn't mean Leslie can't make it. It just means that he's going to have to earn every second of playing time that comes his way. Something he hasn't always done to this point.

Scouts watch games, and while they do, they take notes – lots of notes. Safe to say that, in spite of Leslie's sexy, irresistible physical traits, gifts that the NBA normally finds too attractive to pass up, three seasons of games and piles upon piles of scouting reports allowed the league to suppress that appetite.

In the end, at least for one night, Leslie made himself highly resistible.

66 Comments

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  • dave437 Jul 2, 10:00 a.m.

    Haven't seen a top recruit's stock plummet that far since....well, Damien Wilkins.

  • larrys080.v2 Jun 30, 9:09 a.m.

    CJ Leslie is a prime example of not having it mentally. How many with his skills didn't even get... View More

    — Posted by Sauras69

    +1

    He actually beleived changing his name was going to change who he truly is! Now thats scary!

  • Sauras69 Jun 29, 8:58 p.m.

    CJ Leslie is a prime example of not having it mentally. How many with his skills didn't even get drafted? The Scouts get paid huge monies to make sure they get it right. Not many second chances either if they miss on a player. The GM's, President's, and those in the leadership positions know this to keep their jobs. Leslie didn't allow himself to even listen, and obviously he has no grasp of reality. He's the type to blame all others right now. His attitude was perhaps the worst of any player that I have seen in the ACC in my memory. I don't feel sorry for him at all. He hasn't listened to anyone yet. He has some issues; folks.

  • The Rameses Ultimatum Jun 29, 8:33 p.m.

    CJ Leslie would have been a lottery pick out of high school. Rules forced him to go to college... View More

    — Posted by dmccall

    +2

  • dmccall Jun 29, 5:40 p.m.

    CJ Leslie would have been a lottery pick out of high school. Rules forced him to go to college for a year. During that year his stock fell. In the next year he fell further. Therefore, it stands to reason, that the NBA knows more about a 20 year old prospect than an 18 year old prospect.

    Therefore, the 1-year in college rule is working. How do we improve on it? Make it 2 years. Everybody (who works hard) wins.

  • el conquistador Jun 29, 10:39 a.m.

    Who wants to pay a pouty brat to play with a ball with real men on a basketball court. He's not good enough even on his best day. Over-rated is an under-statement. Rode on the coat tail of John Wall all the way to dropping out of school. I bet we never see him on TV on the court. Just not that good and when he finds out how he really stacks up against the pros, his lip poke out,his shoulders will slump and the pouting will begin all over again. Only this time no one will wipe the tears off his face for him.He'll come home on a bus.

  • ACC22 Jun 29, 8:59 a.m.

    Scouts do watch games. When you pout every time a foul is called on you and swing yours arms around they see this. If you are a head case you better be a super star. A name change doesn't fix anything. C.J., Calvin, it doesn't matter. It's way to easy to get under his skin. No it's not a conspiracy against NC State. Brown being drafted in second round is proof of that.

  • The Rameses Ultimatum Jun 29, 7:27 a.m.

    Please stop the CJ bashing. Without CJ, NC State does not make it to the sweet 16 in 2012. ... View More

    — Posted by msingletary

    Nothing to do with the person, we are talking about the player. Can't fix lazy or uninspired if it's been ingrained in him since he was knee high to Rameses. Since I watched CJ from his junior year in HS, this does not surprise me.

  • The Rameses Ultimatum Jun 29, 7:25 a.m.

    CJ IS A GOOD KID HOPE HE DOES MAKE IT BIG THINK HE HAS BEEN GIVEN BAD RAP
    WITH PEOPLE SUCH AS... View More

    — Posted by JACKSON SAWYER

    David Glen and Adam Gold responsible for CJs draft flop? Stop the presses, we have a winner...for most insane post of the month. Can't make this stuff up folks.

  • Cragsdale Jun 29, 12:07 a.m.

    Please stop the CJ bashing. Without CJ, NC State does not make it to the sweet 16 in 2012. ... View More

    — Posted by msingletary

    It's only bashing if you are making the stuff up. All I have seen here is truth. Sry to pop that rose colored bubble of yours.

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