The NBA regular season is over, and no Pack alumni made the playoffs. However, NC State fans still have a reason to be excited. Longtime women’s basketball point guard Kiara Leslie was drafted by the Washington Mystics and will join T.J. Warren and Dennis Smith Jr. as Pack alumni playing professionally. Let’s take a look at how each Pack pro has performed this season:
Kiara Leslie, point guard, Washington Mystics (WNBA)
Leslie was taken with the tenth overall pick of the 2019 WNBA draft, making her the only NC State player in the WNBA. Leslie was projected by many to go in the second round or third round, but head coach/general manager Mike Thibault clearly sees greatness in Leslie, something NC State fans have been aware of for some time. The WNBA season begins May 24 and NC State fans can watch Leslie at the pro level starting May 25.
Dennis Smith Jr., point guard, New York Knicks (NBA)
Smith, who is on a rookie contract, enters what will assuredly be described as a weird summer for the Knicks. The team is scheduled to have around $73 million in cap space and will look to make Smith a focal point of a team that is aiming to also have the number one overall pick in the draft.
The 21-year-old point guard had a good end to the season with the Knicks after experiencing drama with his old team, the Dallas Mavericks. Smith ended his season with the Knicks averaging 14.7 points and 5.4 assists, however, he did shoot worse overall from the floor. Smith’s fit with what will be a new-look Knicks team will be one to watch.
T.J. Warren, small forward, Phoenix Suns (NBA)
Warren finished the season having inarguably the best season of the young forward’s career. Warren ended the year with 18 points, four rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals. All of those figures rank second-best or best overall in his career, however, his per-game stats are not what made the season so impressive.
Warren finished shooting with a .486/.428/.815 split, which is incredibly close to the ever-sought-after 50/40/90 split. This means that Warren shot 48.6% from the field, 42.8% from 3-point range and 81.5% from the free-throw line. Warren’s 42.8% from beyond the arc is especially impressive since he took 4.2 attempts per game, tripling his per-game attempts from last season.
Warren definitely took a step forward this season and showed that he can be a good third, or even second, option on a contending team.
C.J. Williams, shooting guard, Minnesota Timberwolves/Iowa Wolves (NBA/NBA G-League)
Williams did not have the type of season he was looking for when he signed a two-way contract with the Timberwolves. Former head coach Tom Thibodeau used a very tight-knit rotation, leaving little time for Williams, and current head coach Ryan Saunders played Williams sparsely. Williams finished the season averaging 2.6 points in limited appearances with the Timberwolves and finished the G-League season averaging 14 points on 37% shooting from downtown.
It will be interesting to see if Williams, at age 29, will re-sign with the Timberwolves on a standard contract, as the former Wolfpack guard has had impressive flashes in both the NBA and the G-League.
Maverick Rowan, power forward, Maine Red Claws (NBA G-League)
Rowan was let go from the Austin Spurs of the G-League and was acquired from the available player pool by the Red Claws, the G-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics. Rowan finished the 2018-19 G-League season averaging 4.9 points and 1.7 rebounds. Rowan’s main goal for next season should be to crack a stable G-League rotation and up his averages in hopes of catching onto an NBA team in the future.
Cat Barber, point guard, Ironi Nahariya (Israeli Premier League)
Barber was traded near the NBA G-League trade deadline in exchange for John Gillon, who played for Syracuse. Barber played tremendously better in a better system fit with the Bayhawks, upping his season averages to 14.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and one steal per game. However, Barber still shot poorly from beyond the arc, finishing the season at an abysmal 22.8 percent.
After the Bayhawks were narrowly eliminated from playoff contention, Barber returned to Ironi Nahariya, where he played after the conclusion of the G-League season last year. This summer is likely the most pivotal of Barber’s career and might be his last shot of cracking an NBA training camp roster or even opening day roster.
Abdul-Malik, Abu, power forward, KK Vrijednosnice Osijek (Croatian A-1 Liga)
KK Vrijednosnice Osijek has had a mediocre season, but Abu has not. The starting small forward for the club is averaging 15 points and 8.5 rebounds in 24 games with the club, with one last game coming up.
Dez Lee, point guard, St. John’s Edge (Canadian NBL)
Lee is continuing his dominant streak in the Canadian NBL, playing against another former NC State guard in Alex Johnson, who plays for the London Lightning which shares the division with the Edge. Lee is averaging 15.9 points, seven rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The Edge has won a playoff series against the Sudbury Five in the Five’s inaugural season. The Edge will now take on the KW Titans in the semifinals of the Canadian NBL playoffs in hopes of reaching the finals.
Lennard Freeman, power forward/center, Final Spor Genclik (Turkish TBL)
Freeman is heading into the final stretch of the EuroLeague season averaging a double-double filling in as the starting center for the team. Freeman averages 15.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
Brandon Costner, power forward, Yokohama B-Corsairs (Japanese B.League)
Costner, who played for NC State from 2005-2009, is now in the Japanese B.League and leads all NC State alumni in point-per-game production. Costner averages 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, however, the B-Corsairs are 14-44 overall.