The Next Success Story?

The past two seasons, the New York Knicks have found diamonds in the rough in the forms of Jeremy Lin and Chris Copeland. Yet, both were lost to more lucrative offers via free agency. There were two different scenarios, however. The debate about re-signing Lin was about paying him money management didn’t want to give up. The Copeland decision was about money they couldn’t give up, due to financial restrictions and a lack of cap space.

These rise to stardoms – or just random outcomes of nobodies becoming somebodies – stories do not happen often. It’s a rarity to produce a player like Jeremy Lin every 20 years, let alone find a journeyman rookie the next season.

So, if the Knicks were to go for the hat trick, and have a third success story in three years — who would it be?

I’d guess the undrafted forward, C.J. Leslie.

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Getting to know C.J. Leslie -

Hi, C.J.

We don’t bite. Welcome to the Knicks! For those of you who are not C.J. Leslie though, here’s a quick bio and then a rundown of his measurements straight picked from Draft Express. Leslie was a top prospect coming out of High School. However, the Wolfpack were disappointed that Leslie did not live up to his hype entering college. It’s okay, though, because Leslie is only 22 years old and I feel that to many it was a surprise that he went undrafted. I saw him slotted to go in the first 10 picks of the second round in some mock drafts I reviewed. It might take an NBA coach like Mike Woodson to reverse what was a poor collegiate career into a good NBA career.

Measurements: Height (w/o shoes) – 6’7.5″; Height (in shoes) – 6’8.75″; Weight – 209 lbs; Wingspan – 7’2.25″; Max Vert – 40.5

Leslie has some strengths that we might see on display next season with the Knicks.  In college, majority of Leslie’s scoring came in the post. His ability to put the ball on the floor and take his defender to the hole was key to his success and a reason why he put up 15.1 points per game. Leslie’s first step is quick and can go to either his left or right. Once he’s in the paint, it’s pretty much over for the defender. Leslie has incredible elevation and throws down easily.

What Leslie also does well is getting to the line. He averages 7.8 FTA per 40. He has no problems dealing with contact, which is good if he’s playing either small forward or power forward at the next level. According to DraftExpress, Leslie does have NBA ready skills. For example, Leslie’s quickness allows him to play well in transition; he is also good at cutting to the basket and scoring on offensive rebounds.

Defensively, Leslie’s physique should help him become a better defender. His length will make him a better perimeter defender, but if Leslie is going to be a power forward he’ll get bullied around. He’s just too much of a tweener to defend at the PF position at the pro level.

Now, Leslie also has some weaknesses. He does not shoot threes very well. Leslie made only two three pointers a season ago, making it very hard to slip him into the lineup as a small forward. I could see Woodson running out Melo at the 4 and Leslie at the 3 because the offense from Melo will offset Leslie’s inability to knock down threes. Just an idea. But Leslie should also work on his perimeter jump shot.

Leslie also needs to develop his ball handling skills. He lacks the ability to beat elite competition off the dribble. He may be able to beat them in college using just his speed, but that wont work in the NBA. If he can do that he can become a better offensive threat for the Knicks.

So, can Leslie end up as the Knicks next success story? I don’t see why not. The whole top prospect coming out of High School to undrafted summer league invite seems like a good start to a fairy tale story. You can catch Leslie playing in the summer league in Vegas and you’ll also hear about him in training camp. The Knicks have already invited him.