New York Knicks Summer League: Things To Watch For

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People wearing official New York Knicks shirts will be playing an actually-sanctioned basketball game later today, and that’s exciting.

The Knicks kick off their Summer League schedule at 4:00 PM Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans (!), the first of three games during the league’s new “regular season” portion before tournament play kicks in. There will be a minimum of five games these pseudo-Knicks play during the trip. With their roster for the upcoming season not fully set and a few exciting prospects in tow, there are some things we’ll be keeping an interested eye on, like:

Tim Hardaway, Jr. – Friday will be our first glimpse of the Knicks’ first round pick in post-collegiate action. In the harried, wide open game that you expect during the NBA Summer League, there’s a good chance that Hardaway will put up a lot of points. But it’s how he puts up those points that’s worth focusing on. On the Knicks proper, Hardaway will likely be expected to provide some offense off the bench, and he will fit nicely if he’s able to shoot threes off the catch. Hopefully today we get to see Hardaway in a few catch-and-shoot situations, and while Friday’s game (or any of these games) will be no barometer of future success, I’m sure all of Knicks Nation will get a tingly feeling if some of those threes drop.

Iman Shumpert – Actually there’s really not all that much to look for with Shump. Just DON’T GET HURT WHY ARE YOU PLAYING IN THE SUMMER LEAGUE THIS MAKES NO SENSE.

C.J. Leslie – The Knicks still need some front court help, and there’s a chance they got a productive rotation piece in the undrafted free agent. At N.C. State, Leslie was a bit of a disappointment. However, he improved steadily, statistically, every season, averaging 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for a team that won 24 games and made the NCAA Tournament. Leslie has enough athleticism to play in the league, there’s no question about that. But in college he was a scorer, a focal point, and he’s certainly not going to be that in the NBA. In the Summer League, hopefully Leslie shows signs of being able to rebound and make some hustle plays. That’s probably his ticket to being a useful player next season and beyond.

Candidates to be the next Chris Copeland? – The Knicks’ brass has been getting destroyed in public recently, from the Andrea Bargnani acquisition to luxury tax payments and ever-crucial things like what time they hold conference calls. But one thing Glennie and Co. have done well so far is find diamonds in the rough (see Copeland, Chris and Prigioni, Pablo). We’ll see if anyone impresses on Friday off the bat, but there are definitely some interesting guys on the Knicks’ roster. One of them is Jeremy Tyler, who was a highly-sought after high school player before he made the decision to quit high school to play overseas (in 2009). He’s played 63 games in the NBA with minimal success so far, but he’s still just 22. Tony Mitchell (the one from Alabama, not the guy who was drafted this year out of North Texas) won the D-League Rookie of the Year, averaging 21.9 points in 48 games last season, and once dropped 49 points which is a single-game D-League high. He also won the league’s Slam Dunk Contest, so he can obviously sky.

The Knicks have openly stated they’re looking for another point guard, but unfortunately don’t really have a true floor general on their roster. There is former Texas standout J’Covan Brown, but he’s more of a 2-guard despite standing 6-foot-1. He can score, though, as evidenced by his averaging 20.1 in 2011-12 for the Longhorns. Oh yeah, then there’s also Chris Smith, brother of our good friend Earl, Jr. It’s obviously a long shot that any of these guys end up making an NBA roster, but it’s fun regardless to see who’s available.

Local flavor – Justin Brownlee played two years for St. John’s (2009-2011). Seven-footer A.J. Matthews played for D-III Farmingdale State College out on Long Island and is originally from Brooklyn.

Familiar faces – Jerome Jordan!

I’m sure there will be some sort of overreaction either way. If Jeremy Tyler drops 25 and 13, people will want the Knicks to sign him. If Hardaway goes 1-for-11, there will be someone on Twitter calling him a bust. But this is all okay, because this is exactly what the Summer League is all about.

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