The New York Knicks’ youngsters will take the court for the first time on Friday, July 11th as the Las Vegas Summer League tips off. Normally, the Summer League isn’t much of a story because most of these players don’t make the actual roster, but that won’t be the case for the Knicks this year. There will be a multiple headlines for the Knicks coming out of the Summer League, as some of these players will be on the Knicks active roster and fans will get a sneak peek at the type of head coach the newly hired Derek Fisher will be.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The summer is mostly about the development of young players, and after a trade with the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks acquired two second-round picks which were used to draft two intriguing prospects in Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Along with those draft picks, the Knicks also received a first-rounder from the 2013 NBA Draft in Shane Larkin. Additionally, the Knicks will bring back other players from last year’s roster including guard Tim Hardaway Jr., center Cole Aldrich, forward Jeremy Tyler, and guard Shannon Brown. Here are the specifics of what to watch for from the Knicks this summer:
Let’s start at the top with new head coach Derek Fisher. He opted to coach the Summer League team, something most head coaches pass over to an assistant coach, most likely because he wants to establish himself with the players from the get go. Fisher is a smart guy, who so far has done and said all the right things. It will be interesting to see how he runs the triangle with the Knicks, because it will be a complete change from the incumbent Mike Woodson’s coaching strategy. All eyes will be on Fisher as he debuts for his new Broadway fans.
Tim Hardaway Jr. will look to pick up right where he left off during his rookie season in the NBA. He was an All-Rookie First-Team selection, albeit in a weaker draft class, who showed his offensive talents to the Madison Square Garden faithful this past season. A year of experience should do wonders for Hardaway Jr. as he adjusts to life in the NBA. It has already been noted that he is working on his defense and strength, which are the two weakest parts of his game right now. He is going to be most of the Knicks offense in the Summer League this year.
Shane Larkin will look to bounce back from an injury-riddled rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks in which he averaged a mere 2.8 points and 1.5 assists per game. Playing behind Jose Calderon, who was also traded to the Knicks, and Devin Harris in Dallas certainly didn’t help Larkin’s development. In college he was a score-first point guard who is perceived as lighting quick and has a solid perimeter jumper. Also, he was a solid floor general for the Miami Hurricanes. His biggest downfall is his size (just 5-11) and lack of athleticism. It will certainly be interesting to see if he can make a case for backup duty behind the aforementioned starter, Jose Calerdon, given the fact that Pablo Prigioni is a Mike Woodson player and is 37-years-old.
Shannon Brown will be another interesting name to watch this summer. He played under Phil Jackson and alongside Derek Fisher on the Los Angeles Lakers. Given his relationship with those two players, it certainly doesn’t hurt his chances of making the final roster, depending on how many players Fisher decides to keep. Brown also knows the triangle since he has played in it before and can be a crutch for the young guys to lean on during the growing pains this summer. He can still be a solid role player, although he’s not quite as explosive as he once was during his days as a highlight reel dunker.
As for Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler, it will be about impressing coach Fisher enough to be deemed worthy of a roster spot. Given their small salaries and inability to “wow” anyone last year, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Jackson and Fisher to cut both in favor of other team’s youngsters who get cut after the Summer League is over. Tyler would have a better shot of making the Knicks based on his skill set, but since the Knicks need a backup center behind Samuel Dalembert, it may lead to Aldrich getting a roster spot by default.
Finally we get to the rookies. Cleanthony Early is the one player with a solid chance of making the Knicks roster. He is a small-forward at 6’7″ with a 40 inch vertical. Given his athleticism and the Knicks need for a solid role player behind Carmelo Anthony (if he returns of course) it would appear that Early has a chance to show those teams that passed on him in the first round why he should have been drafted earlier. Early has the ability to hit a perimeter jump shot and finishes well in the paint. He should be a solid player for the Knicks this year and beyond, and probably is the lone rookie who will have an instant impact.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo will be another interesting player to watch this summer. Rumors are already swirling that the Knicks may look to stash him in Europe so he can come back in a year or two as a rotational player. Although he may not have the size or skill set of his brother, Thanasis has great length for his size at 6-7 with a seven-foot wingspan. He is a defense-minded player who uses his length to create turnovers. In the NBA D-League he averaged 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Antetokounmpo is versatile and can play any position from the shooting guard to the power forward spot in a pinch. First and foremost though, he needs to develop a consistent offensive game.
Finally the last name to keep an eye on will be undrafted free agent Langston Galloway. As previously stated, the Knicks backup point guard position is not set in stone by any means. Galloway is a point guard out of St. Joseph’s who has length at the position which Phil Jackson has always liked out of his point guards. At 6’2″ and around 200 lbs, Galloway has the size to defend point guards at the NBA level, but defense is not his strong suite as he was more of a combo guard in college. He seems like a long shot to make the roster, but he can light it up on the offensive end. If he can impress the coaching staff this summer, given the Knicks roster at this stage, you never know.
Which Knicks player are you most looking forward to watching during the Summer League? Let us know in the comments section below!
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