Former NC State power forward C.J. Leslie is sitting on the fence between the first round and second for the upcoming NBA draft in late June.
DraftExpress.com has Leslie going No. 33 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in its latest mock draft, one spot ahead of the Wolfpack's Lorenzo Brown. Power forward Richard Howell is slotted for No. 57 overall, which is one of the last four picks of the second round. All three former NC State players took part in the NBA draft combine in Chicago, and were joined by coach Mark Gottfried on Thursday.
Leslie's workouts and interviews will play a crucial role leading up to the draft. He was the preseason ACC Player of the Year, but fell to third-team all-conference and exited NC State with one year of eligibility remaining.
Leslie's improvements from his sophomore year to his junior season were minimal statistically. Leslie averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, and shot a solid 51.9 percent from the field and 61.2 at the free-throw line.
Leslie looks to another player who had similar college numbers as inspiration for the next level. Indiana Pacers star Paul George played two years at Fresno State, and averaged 16.8 points and 7.2 rebound per contest, but shot 42.4 percent from the field. The bigger difference was George was already developed as a shooter, shooting 40.4 percent from three-point land in his career, and 79.5 percent at the line, including 90.9 his sophomore season.
George went on to be the 10th pick in the 2010 draft and has become an elite player in his third year. He's averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for the Pacers.
"I like guys like Paul George and Rudy Gay [of Toronto Raptors], and that's who I patterned myself after," Leslie said.
Leslie was able to get measured and weighed, and took part in drills Thursday and Friday. He checked in at 6-foot-7 1/2 with his shoes off and weighed 209.2 pounds, and also had a 7-2 1/4 wingspan. The height was a half-inch over what Nike measured him at when he was in high school at Raleigh Word of God.
Leslie was able to run the agility lane drill in 10.19 seconds, and had a 32.5-inch standing vertical jump and went 40.5 on the max vertical jump. He didn't take part in some drills due to a hand injury he suffered dunking the basketball about a week ago.
"I've been dunking and doing a lot of workouts, and my hand swelled up," Leslie said. "It's my [right] shooting hand. I'm just going to play it by ear, and when the swelling goes down, I should be fine."
Leslie and Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel have been called two of the best athletes in the draft. Noel is the younger brother of NCSU outside linebacker Rodman Noel. Leslie has always wowed onlookers with his explosiveness, especially around the rim and in transition.
"That's one of the great things that I can bring," Leslie said.
Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs.com contributed to this story.