In a draft full of 19-year-old athletes with high upside but little in the way of experience against high quality competition, teams more or less know what they could be getting out of UNC’s Leslie McDonald. The shooting guard doesn’t have the name value of teammate James McAdoo and others, but he knows that he still has a lot to offer for any NBA team’s bench.
“I’m a hard-worker, i can bring experience to the table,” McDonald told Hoops Rumors earlier today. “I know the game very well. I’m a great shooter, I can bring an outside presence to a team that needs it, and when I get open I’m going to nail that set shot.”
With plenty of skill but less hype than others, McDonald knows that he’ll have to rely on that tireless work ethic to vault himself to the NBA level. The guard had just one private team workout this summer when the Hornets called him in as a last-minute substitute for Virginia’s Joe Harris and others. McDonald may have been a late fill-in for Charlotte, but he was able to come in on short notice and hold his own against Washington’s C.J. Wilcox and Florida’s Casey Prather in scrimmages.
As the shooting guard explained himself, his shooting range is one of his best qualities and will likely be his calling card going forward as he attempts to endear himself to an NBA team. Aside from that, McDonald offers a sharp basketball IQ and he believes that he has a stronger understanding of the game than many of the guards in this year’s draft class.
“I’ve been in different situations where I know what to do at certain times, as far as shot selection and pass selection and just doing things at the right time. Knowing the right time to shoot the ball and when to take a different course of action is such an important thing in this game,” McDonald said.
McDonald was given an opportunity to contribute as an underclassman for UNC when he came on campus but, unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL that wound up costing him his entire junior season. Before his injury in the summer of 2011, the guard averaged 38.1% from downtown and was proving himself to be an important piece for the Tar Heels. When he came back on the court for his redshirt junior season in 2012/13, McDonald admits that he wasn’t quite the same player, though he still managed to bring the shooting when it counted. McDonald never flexed that same kind of efficiency from downtown in the remaining two seasons of his collegiate career, but he attributes that partially to rust and partially to changing his style of play.
“When I got hurt my shooting wasn’t quite the same but it’s definitely coming back to me. I’m regaining it and I think I nailed some really big shots towards the end of my senior season,” the guard explained. “My first two years, I was more of a spot-up shooter. I was known more for that than all the things I can do so well now like driving to the basket and knocking down mid-range shots. There was just less of a focus on three-point shooting for me.”
One of the main knocks on McDonald is his size. At 6’4″, the UNC product matched up just fine at the collegiate level but would be a bit smaller than most two guards in the NBA. However, McDonald isn’t the least bit concerned about going up against bigger opponents.
“For me, its all about production and I feel like on the defensive side I’m not a liability. I’m comfortable sticking a bigger guard or a smaller guard and on offense I just feel like I can shoot the ball against anybody. My release is quick and when guys are taller than me, I know how to create space or drive the lane or dish out to different people. No matter who is on me, there’s no reason why I can’t get my shot off or create an opportunity for someone else,” the 23-year-old explained.
It’s not guaranteed that McDonald will hear his name called on Thursday night, but if he doesn’t, his representatives at Tandem Sports will find plenty of opportunities for him to showcase his stuff for clubs this offseason. With four years of big-game experience under Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, one imagines that plenty of teams will be interested in seeing what McDonald has to offer.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.