2006 Summer League First Thoughts
Due to my trusty PVR, I’ve been able to catch a few of the summer games. My thoughts on some of the young Knicks:
Frye looked solid until twisting his ankle. And I mean solid physically. Channing must have spent some of his offseason time hitting the weights, and it’s quite common for players to fill out in their first few seasons. The Knicks wanted Frye to work on his inside game, and his little jump hook seemed to be coming along. However the injury ended his summer league, so that’s something he’ll have to work on in practice.
The Knicks first selection in the draft comes as advertised. Balkman is an energy player who gives the Knicks a little bit of athleticism and length on both ends of the court. He’s leading the summer league squad in blocked shots with 4, which is something the Knicks sorely missed the last few seasons. Additionally Balkman is shooting a healthy 69% from the field and is the team’s second best rebounder. Renaldo’s attacks the rim with abandon, posterizing Cleveland’s Stephen Graham in the first game, and he moves well without the ball.
On the other hand Balkman doesn’t have any semblance of a jump shot, nor can he hit from the free throw line. Balkman has only hit half of his free throws this summer which isn’t surprising looking at his college numbers. Not being able to hit a solitary 15 foot shot doesn’t bode well for Renaldo being able to develop an outside game in the future. At one point Balkman received the ball alone from beyond the arc, and the announcers remarked that he “passed up the open three pointer.” Yeah, and I passed up the lead role in Pirates of the Caribbean II. The other thing I noticed about the 20th overall pick is that his dribble is inconsistent. The first time he touched the ball as a professional Balkman dribbled the ball too far from his body & had it quickly taken away. Other times he’s handled the rock with skill, so hopefully what we’re seeing is rookie jitters that will go away.
If there is one positive outlook on Channing Frye’s injury, it’s that David Lee has been able to step up his game. Lee’s strength is his rebounding, but with Frye out Lee has become the Knicks leading scorer. While he still has lapses on the defensive end, Lee has become the Knicks most consistent player in Vegas. The Knicks forward is making a good case to get more minutes when the season starts.
For second year players, the summer league is a time for expanding repertoires. The Knicks coaching staff has asked Nate Robinson to become more of a point guard and get his teammates involved with the offense. Unfortunately the message is not getting through, as Robinson has taken 2.6 shots for every assist he’s dished out. All too often Nate has sped off to the hoop with a cadre of defenders abandoning their duties to prevent the diminutive guard from scoring. With a host of teammates open on plays like these Robinson still refuses to pass the ball. Additionally Nate has issues with his shot selection, as his summer 42% eFG would attest to. Mark Aguirre has regularly benched Nate, including removing him early in the first quarter of the Kings game after the guard forced up a shot.
Robinson’s fearlessness allows him to get to the hoop on offense, grab rebounds on both ends of the court, and talk smack during the course of the game. Nonetheless he needs to increase his court vision because he’s not going to continue to make a living if the entire league knows he can’t pass when driving to the rim.
The other Knick draftee receives an incomplete. He only averages 19 minutes a game, and really hasn’t done anything that stands out in my mind.
Franko Kastropil & Paul Miller
Kastropil is a 7-footer that can get up the court quickly, but he doesn’t do anything particularly well. He doesn’t have a great vertical jump which prevents him from blocking shots or finishing with authority. Kastropil doesn’t seem to have much of an offensive game. He has been a decent rebounder in summer league, but most 7 footers are.
Like Kostropil, Miller is firmly grounded, but unlike Kastropil, Miller doesn’t run the court well. Paul does have a nice little jump shot, but if the Knicks are going to play up-tempo this year he won’t fit in well with the major league team. If you could combine Miller’s shooting touch with Katropil’s size and mobility you’d have an NBA center on your hands.
These two players are exactly the reason that the Knicks should match the Spurs offer to Butler. Kastropil & Miller show how hard it is to find quality big men in this league. But more importantly if the Spurs, one of the best run organizations in sports, is offering your 21 year old center a 3 year deal for $7M, then that should tell you that you have a good young player on your hands.
Walker Russell, Jr.
I didn’t know anything about Walker Russell before the summer league started. One article mentions that Russell is a son of a friend of Isiah Thomas, which led me to believe that this was a charity case and that Russell shouldn’t be taken seriously ala Zech Marbury. However Russell has impressed me with his play and if his minutes are an indication, he has impressed coach Aguirre as well. Walker is 4th in the team in minutes played behind Lee, Robinson, and Balkman, and has given the Knicks a little bit of everything. While the Knicks have a full roster and aren’t looking for extra players, I’d be surprised if some NBA team doesn’t give him a 10 day contract during the season.