RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Travis Leslie

Posted by jstevrtc on June 2nd, 2011

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player name: Travis Leslie

School: Georgia

Height/Weight: 6’4, 205 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Early to Mid-Second Round

Overview: Travis Leslie logged three fine years at Georgia playing a combination of shooting guard and small forward, and it’s the common practice, by reflex, to assume a guy will play down a position as he moves from the college to professional ranks. This is especially easy when you notice a player with dimensions like those of Leslie, meaning a fellow who checks in anywhere from 6’4 and 205 pounds. Leslie is significantly more physically imposing than his frame indicates on paper, though, and along with his advanced phyiscal condition he brings incredible quickness. He’s also one of the best offensive-rebounding guards in this year’s group, and for all of these reasons he’ll probably see more time in the NBA as a small forward than he will at the two. He might be severely undersized as a three, and even moderately so as a two, but he has other gifts that — cliche’ alert, here — help him to play bigger than he is. In fact, let’s just get this bit of video out of the way early, because it’s not only impressive on its own, but it serves as a fair reminder of the type of athlete we’re dealing with:

Will Translate to the NBA: As far as quickness, physical condition, and killer instinct are concerned, Leslie is NBA-ready. You’ll never have to tell him to get on the glass, as this seems to come instictively to him. He will happily (and easily) blow by you with a preposterously quick first step. Once he’s by you, he can either finish at the rim with ferocity (as Mr. Cousins, above, can attest) or finesse, but if he chooses to pull up and shoot, his jumper is reliable out to about 15 feet. On the defensive side, his quickness will allow coaches to use him to cover opposing ones, twos, and threes, a quality that endears him to many teams looking for a sneaky second-round pickup. He was second in scoring (14.4 PPG) for the Bulldogs last year, but was also second (as a guard, mind you) on the team with 7.2 boards per contest. His 49.2% from the field and 16.3 efficiency score were both team bests, indicating that he can be trusted to make good decisions whenever the ball’s in his hands.

Needs Work: As you read this, you can probably bet that somewhere Travis Leslie is in a gym getting up as many three-point shots as his arms will allow. The major gap in his game that kept him from reaching his full potential as a player in college was not just his lack of a reliable shot outside of 15-16 feet, but the very visible lack of confidence he showed in it. In 90 games over his three seasons in Athens, Leslie shot 57 threes; he hit 19 of them. 33.3% is not a terrible number by any means. So…why so few? Is it because he could torch defenders so easily and therefore didn’t need to let it sail from distance very much? Not likely, and it really doesn’t matter. A player of his size will be expected to possess an outside shot in the NBA, especially considering that improvement on the perimeter moves his elevator up a couple of floors as far as how GMs will think of him and his NBA serviceability. The lack of attempts and obvious reluctance to shoot from distance implies that the hurdle here is more mental than anything. With a usable outside shot, however, Leslie gets closer to being one of those “How do you guard him?” guys. Even with his quickness and hops, Leslie won’t dazzle you with his handle or his bag of moves in getting to the rim. If he hits the accelerator, it’s pretty much one direct move until he takes to the air. It’s impressive enough, but it accentuates the need for him to develop his perimeter skill.

Comparison Players:  Where to start… NBA wings who can leap tall buildings in a single bound while struggling to find the mark from outside the college three-point line are a dime a dozen.  For now, we’ll go with two options: if he develops his jump shot to the point of becoming a reliable threat out to 25 feet, then the Orlando Magic’s Jason Richardson is a fair comparison.  If he cannot, then former Boston Celtics jumping jack Gerald Green (now playing in Europe) is the appropriate guy.  Note that both players mentioned are former NBA Slam Dunk Contest winners; expect to see Leslie and his 40-inch vertical in that competition if he lands on a roster in coming years. 

Best Case Scenario: If he develops an outside shot he’s confident in launching, he could find himself on an NBA roster every year and seeing substantial time. It’ll force defenders to play up on him, which is what he wants, and that will allow him to do what he does best: drive or get to the goal. Leslie’s no ball hog, either. He likes keeping his teammates happy with his distribution, so that’s another option once he gets past his man. If he develops both his outside shot and puts together an array of moves to further help him get into the lane where he’s most dangerous, then we could easily be talking about Travis Leslie as one of the steals of the draft in a few years. With those added skills, he could start for a number of NBA squads. It’s said that on draft night, teams don’t take players based on ability as much as they do on potential. Well, here you go, guys. Leslie has the desire and the work ethic and he’s a good enough athlete to carve out a nice little NBA career over several years if he lands on a team with a set of coaches who care enough to take the time to help him fill in the aforementioned holes.

2014 Projection: His athleticism alone will help him remain in the league three years from now. At some point on that road, he’ll probably have to bone up on those shortcomings in the D-league, but if he shows even moderate gains in the quest to elevate his reliabilty from range and/or his one-on-one game, even though he won’t be one of the top options on any team, we think he’ll still be around in three years snagging a few minutes a game for someone.

Best NBA Fit:  A good team with shortcomings in the athleticism department that wants to take a chance that his work ethic will allow him to develop as a reliable offensive player could eventually be rewarded several times over with Leslie.  The Boston Celtics at #25, the San Antonio Spurs at #29, or even the LA Lakers at #41 are the kinds of teams that would be interested in giving Leslie a look with the thought that he’ll be ready to contribute in two to three years when those rosters are turning over for good. 

Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “Really athletic slasher… shaky jump shooter but highly effective free throw shooter… best guard rebounder in this draft… seems to always play hard.”

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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