Wolfpack's Gottfried believes undrafted players will thrive
Despite disappointing results in the NBA Draft, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried believes in his players.
By LAUREN BROWNLOWFS Carolinas
When the NBA Draft wrapped up on June 27, just one N.C. State player out of four with a chance (some more outside than others) to be drafted had been picked.
Lorenzo Brown went 52nd overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but teammates C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Scott Wood went undrafted.
Leslie averaged 15.7 points and 7.4 rebounds last year, while Howell added 12.7 points and 10.9 rebounds (and made First Team All-ACC). Wood shot 44.1 percent from three and averaged 12.6 points, while Brown averaged 12.4 points and 7.2 assists.
Howell had an outside shot at getting drafted, but Wood likely wasn’t going to be. Both have latched on with summer league teams (Howell with the
Nuggets, Wood with the Clippers) and both could certainly see at least some time at the NBA level. Leslie signed with the
Knicks, but the uber-athletic forward not getting picked was a bit of a shock.
And it was somewhat of a shock in general to see just one player from a talented N.C. State team go. Period. Head coach Mark Gottfried worked the proverbial phones for his guys as best he could leading up to draft night, only to be somewhat disappointed with the results.
“I was disappointed in the draft. I thought that quite frankly that (Brown) and the teams I talked to would’ve been picked higher,” Gottfried said. “I actually think (Howell) is in a better position, to be honest, not being drafted. (Leslie) was all over the board. I had some teams that showed a lot of interest and some teams that showed none. Like everybody, I was hoping it would turn out a little different for him.
"But I still think in today’s day with only two rounds and the number of guys that sign free agent contracts, I think it can work out well for all those guys. we’ll have to wait and see.”
After the 2012 season, Leslie would have likely been a first-round pick. He played well in that season's NCAA Tournament, and any questions about his inconsistent effort appeared to have been answered.
But he came back again for one more year -- and what typically happens to guys that make such a choice happened to him as well. The scrutiny increased, and Leslie’s effort didn’t seem to always be there. That never stopped NBA teams from drafting players as good as Leslie before, though. That magical word -- “upside” -- is usually enough.
But it wasn’t in this case.
“A lot of teams candidly had a lot of concerns about how hard he played. Some teams did like him when I talked to them. Some teams had their mind made up, and it was hard to change them,” Gottfried said. "I tried my best sometimes to change their mind. It’s difficult.
“But I do believe that (Leslie) can be a really good NBA player. I still believe that today. I think
New York is going to find once they get him with their summer league team and get him up there, they’re going to find he’s a terrific young person. I think he’s going to make their roster and I actually think he’s going to play for them this year.”
Leslie is going to have to feed off of his disappointment in the same way that one of his teammates already is.
Gottfried said he met with Howell, who was arguably the most improved player in the ACC last year, and he’s using the slight to fuel him.
“Richard Howell has been one of those guys that’s kind of been the underdog his whole life. Really, if you look at him, he wasn’t a highly-rated guy coming out of high school. He wasn’t a guy that anybody predicted would be a First Team All-ACC player as a senior or lead the league in rebounding like he did,” Gottfried said. “So for him, although he’s disappointed, he’ll knock the doors down with the Nuggets. So I think that’s kind of familiar territory for Richard. He’ll find a way to surprise them and get the job done.”
There is a natural inclination to want to tie in N.C. State’s lack of draft success with its somewhat lackluster season. The ESPN NBA Draft analysts did, insisting N.C. State was a team that played no defense and called them the most disappointing team in the country last year.
Gottfried isn’t going to take that kind of criticism personally, though.
“Hey, that happens. It’s part of it. I didn’t watch the whole (draft), so,” Gottfried said. “I’ve been getting criticized for a long time. It kind of rolls off after awhile. And sometimes, they’re right. Sometimes people are right, and you’ve got to acknowledge that. That’s okay. Move on.”