A bit player as a freshman, Travis Leslie
had a breakout season as a sophomore, and looks poised to emerge on the national level in this his junior season, which could very well be his swan song in college basketball.
Undersized for a wing player at 6-4, but sporting a phenomenal frame and wingspan to compensate, Leslie is arguably the most explosive player in the nation, showing a great first step, phenomenal speed in the open floor, NBA slam-dunk contest caliber leaping ability, and the willingness to make use of that on a regular basis.
Not a terribly skilled player offensively, Leslie sees the majority of his possessions in transition, cutting off the ball, and through his work on the offensive glass, where his outstanding athleticism gives him an incredible advantage at the college basketball level.
Seeing plenty of minutes at the power forward position, he's an incredible mismatch threat in the SEC, able to outquick and simply outwork most college big men, while not giving up too much on the other end of the floor thanks to his length, strength and aggressiveness. Leslie plays with a sort of reckless abandon that scouts love to see from a player with world-class athleticism, throwing his body around relentlessly and looking to dunk the ball anytime he even remotely has the opportunity to do so, which in his case is quite often.
Leslie's strong frame and tenacious nature makes him a major post-up threat, while his tremendous wingspan gives him terrific extension around the basket, allowing him to get his shot off in a variety of ways inside the paint. You often see him reversing the ball around the rim and using the glass, which is quite interesting. He doesn't have great touch at this stage, though, especially with his left hand, which is almost non-existent. His shooting percentages inside the paint are fairly average for that reason, under 50%, which is something to keep track of down the road.
Although not a superb ball-handler, Leslie gets to the free throw line at a great rate thanks to his sheer physical tools, and managed to up his percentages from the charity stripe from a dismal 57.5% as a freshman to a very respectable 73.5% as a sophomore. He still has plenty of work to do on his shot-creating ability from the perimeter, though, especially in terms of changing directions with the ball and operating with his left hand, things that he currently struggles with.
As a jump-shooter, Leslie is fairly limited, attempting just 11 total 3-pointers last season. This is likely the part of his game he needs to work on the most down the road, especially if he's to make the transition to the shooting guard position eventually, where his size indicates he'd be best served. His mechanics are somewhat crude and mechanical, featuring a fairly long wind-up, while his touch leaves something to be desired as well. He did show some potential in this area as the year moved on, though, which is something we'll need to monitor closely in this upcoming season.
Although a fairly raw player in many aspects, Leslie's passing skills and all-around basketball IQ are at least above average, as his solid assist totals from last season would indicate. That's a good sign for the future, especially when you consider his late bloomer statusnot being considered a top 100 high school prospect by any of the major recruiting services.
Defensively is where Leslie might have the best potential as far as the NBA is concerned, as he has the physical tools needed to guard multiple positions (up to three) and be a real game-changer on this end of the floor with his length and lateral quickness. He's one of the best rebounders in the SEC already, offensively especially, and comes up with plenty of blocks and steals as well in addition to everything else he contributes.
With that said, Leslie's fundamentals and awareness on the defensive end leave a lot to be desired at the moment, as he's clearly getting by on his physical attributes. He often looks lost defending off the ball, relaxing in his stance, getting spun around aimlessly, biting on pump-fakes and swiping at the ball excessively. The fact that his team relies heavily on a zone defense doesn't help matters much, but Leslie still looks very far from reaching his potential on this end of the floor.
It will be very interesting to see what kind of season Leslie and Georgia are able to string together, as on paper they appear to be a pretty talented group, especially in the frontcourt. An NCAA tournament berth would likely do wonders for Leslie's draft stock, but that's not a sure thing if the preseason predictions are any indication.