The Raptors 905 are currently the top team in the D-League, and power forward C.J. Leslie is a big reason why.
Leslie attended North Carolina State, and in three years became a huge part of the Wolfpack’s success. The best example of that was seen during his final year where Leslie averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game which pushed NC State to back to back NCAA tournament appearances.
Following his three year career at NC State, many thought Leslie would be a 2nd round draft pick. Unfortunately, Leslie wasn’t drafted but signed with the New York Knicks as a free agent. Leslie only played five pre-season games before getting waived and headed to the D-League where he would play for the Erie BayHawks.
With Erie, Leslie played in 34 games where he averaged 13.3 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 47.1% from the field in only 25 minutes per game. At the trade deadline that season Leslie was traded to the Idaho Stampede to finish off the 2013-14 season. In Idaho, Leslie played in 10 games, where he averaged 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds on 45% from the field in 18.6 minutes per game.
Leslie played the whole 2013-14 D-League season without a call-up and headed overseas for a couple years. During that time, Leslie had several ‘cup of teas’ in Korea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Israel and Cyrpus. After spending two years overseas, Leslie decided to return to the D-League for the 2016-17 season, where the Raptors 905 held his rights.
Leslie went up north to Mississauga for training camp in his return to the D-League, and the hopes of getting to the NBA. Now with the D-League season closing out, Leslie has arguably stood as the finest performer on the stacked 905 roster. That statement is backed up by Leslie averaging 11.0 points and 5.8 rebounds on 54% from the field in only 20.2 minutes per game.
Leslie has been able to produce in Stackhouse’s rotation which at the beginning of the year was going 12 man deep. Now, Stackhouse have gone from a 12 man rotation to a more conventional 8 or 9 man rotation, depending on the match ups. With that Leslie have benefited greatly, and it have shown in his work ethic as well. As there were some rumors out there that Leslie has an NBA skill set but isn’t in the NBA because of his attitude and work ethic.
Now Leslie’s work ethic and attitude is no longer in question and it has shown in Stackhouse trusting him more. As on the offensive end, Leslie is not scared to post up against bigger players often using a spin move to get around them. As well, Leslie will hang around the basket looking for an offensive rebound for the put back or the foul and head to the free throw line.
Also, Leslie’s shot has improved quite a bit this season, as it seems he is trusting his shot more and more every game. Adding to his already loaded repertoire. As well. Leslie have become very good at setting picks.
Leslie’s skills as a pick setter becomes important due to the 905 having Brady Heslip, arguably the best shooter in the D-League. Getting Heslip open is something Leslie does, as he will set very good picks, letting Heslip dribble around him and shot a three or a mid range shot and more times than not will go in.
As for the defensive end of the floor, Leslie has shown the ability to guard several positions. Leslie is a power forward who can also play the small forward and be a center if the 905 go small. With his versatility it helps Leslie on the defensive end of the court as Leslie can switch on to guard multiple positions from shooting guard to even center and handle them very well. If Leslie has to guard a center he holds his ground and won’t let that center post up. Or if Leslie has to guard a 2 or a 3, he can guard the perimeter very well, as Leslie can stay with them due to his quick footwork and agility.
With all these attributes, Leslie has an NBA skill set, and could be looked at for one of the new 2 way deals or perhaps head overseas and cash in. Whatever he does, Leslie will for sure produce.