Another player who could (or should) spend a good chunk of the season down in the minors is the New York Knicks' C.J. Leslie.
After a solid collegiate career at NC State, the forward surprisingly went undrafted in this past summer's NBA Draft. Afterwards, as he looked for that opportunity that many had expected to come his way already, Leslie hooked on with the Knicks for NBA Summer League, and signed a partially guaranteed deal for the coming season after that.
New York is an interesting fit for Leslie, and vice versa. After crumbling at the feet of the Pacers this past postseason, as they continue to compete, it's clear the Knicks could use an injection of youth into their rotation. They need to mix things up by keeping an eye on the future and developing talent that could stick around longterm. What's more, playing younger players a bit more often throughout the regular season could ensure that the steadier and more experienced players are fresh, healthy, and ready to go in time for a playoff run.
The Knicks are often ones to trade multiple draft picks in order to reel in as much talent as possible for the present. This undoubtedly keeps them competitive, but also sacrifices some hope for the future. That said, by drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. this year, and pairing him alongside the likes of recent signees Leslie and Jeremy Tyler, the team is managing to keep the light at the end of the (future) tunnel shining brightly.
That all said, there's a good chance Leslie may not be ready to be depended on during his rookie year, let alone day one of it. The Knicks are filling up roster spots, but not every player that occupies one needs to be a groundbreaking contributor. They have the time and flexibility to allow Leslie to develop and subsequently flourish, so he's certainly worth holding onto.
The NBA D-League will undoubtedly help the Knicks do that. Clearly, after going undrafted, it's obvious that many teams had their respective doubts and/or hesitations about Leslie's game. In NBA Summer League, it was easy to see how athletic Leslie is. He's fast, athletic, and explosive at the rim. Nevertheless, his game is still very raw. Things could certainly be more tamed for Leslie on the offensive end. He needs to hone his skills a bit more, but he could end up being a very special NBA player.
The fact that Leslie may not be ready right now, but could be soon with a little bit more work and practice, means the NBADL is a good place for him to spend much of his first professional season. Last season, the Knicks didn't utilize the affiliated Erie BayHawks all too often. Amar'e Stoudemire (along with James White and Chris Copeland) practiced with the minor league club as part of rehab, but that was about as far as New York's foray into the D-League went. Henry Sims was also the only player, whom the Knicks enlisted to play for Erie after training camp, to essentially last through the later parts of the season. Not much representation there, either.
In wanting to stay competitive and chase an NBA title this coming season, the Knicks aren't going to have many minutes to go around for Leslie and co.
Instead, if utilized properly, the NBA D-League is where the forward can branch out, strut his stuff, and begin to shine a bit. Here's to hoping the Knicks understand that.