Here at Clips Nation, we're running a series of "exit interviews" of the 2012 Los Angeles Clippers. An overview and analysis, player by player, of all 15 Clippers who finished the 2011-2012 season on the roster. In this edition: little used rookie guard .
Name: Travis Leslie
2011-2012 Key Stats: 1.4 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.5 apg, 4.5 mpg
Years in the NBA: 1
Years with the Clippers: 1
2011-2012 Salary: $500,000
Contract Status: Signed through 2014 to an unguaranteed contract.
In a Nutshell
The Clippers drafted Travis Leslie out of Georgia in the middle of the second round of the 2011 draft, 47th overall. The team didn't have a first round draft pick after trading their pick to Cleveland in order to get rid of Baron Davis, so Leslie and fellow second round pick Trey Thompkins represented the rookie class for the Clippers. A perennial lottery team, it was unusual not to have a rookie from whom at least something was expected.
But nothing was expected from Leslie, and that's precisely what the Clippers got: nothing. He played a mere 45 minutes on the season, all of them in garbage time. In fact, aside from players like Jeff Green who were out for the season with injuries, no NBA player who spent the entire season on a single roster played fewer minutes than Travis Leslie. He's lucky that the active roster was expanded from 12 to 13 for the 2011-2012 season or he might never have gotten into a Clippers uniform.
We have no idea what Leslie can do at an NBA level -- he didn't play a single meaningful NBA minute. So we're left more or less with what we knew about him coming out of college. He's a superior athlete with good size for an NBA two guard. In theory he has all the physical tools to be a great wing defender. On offense he needs to work on his ball handling and shooting.
Leslie did spend 10 regular season and 4 playoff games in the D-League with the Baskersfield Jam. He was relatively productive with the Jam, shooting better than 50% from the field and making a third of his three pointers. He averaged 10 points and 3 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game with the Jam. Not bad, but also not the kind of numbers that get D-League players noticed for their shot in the big show.
As with his strengths, we just don't know what Leslie's specific weaknesses are since we haven't seen him play.We can only assume that coach Vinny Del Negro thinks he's got a lot of weaknesses, given that he never once played him in a meaningful NBA situation.
Going back to the basic book on him, he's got all of the physical attributes of an NBA shooting guard, but not the skill set. He played forward in college and got most of his points in transition and attacking the rim. The word is he still has a lot of work to do developing his handle and his shot. Without a summer league last season, and with essentially no practice time due to the compressed schedule, it was a bad season for an unpolished rookie to enter the NBA. Frankly, we'll finally get to know Leslie in a couple months in Las Vegas in Summer League games.
Future with the Clippers
Leslie signed a three year contract with the Clippers -- but only the first season was guaranteed. Which means that if they feel they have a better option they won't hesitate for a moment to cut him loose. It's not like they have much invested in developing him.
The Clippers spent the entire season worrying about their size on the wing. They chased after J.R. Smith, signed Bobby Simmons from the D-League, and traded for Nick Young at the trade deadline, all to try to get deeper on the wing and bigger at the shooting guard spot. Yet the whole time they had a 6'4" uber-athlete with a 6'10" wing span sitting on their bench. It tells you something about how far away Leslie was from contributing last season that he never even got a look; not even when Chauncey Billups was injured and Eric Bledsoe had yet to return to full strength.
We'll see what happens in Las Vegas in July and we'll get more of a feel. But come October, Leslie's going to be competing with a new second round pick, and a handful of free agents, for the 14th spot on the roster. Let's hope that either he has a great off-season and returns ready to contribute, or they find a better option, because even if you're not expecting much from your 14th man, you still want more than 45 garbage time minutes.