With the Knicks 2007 season in the books, we will evaluate one player every Monday.
KnickerBlogger: Renaldo Balkman’s arrival in New York wasn’t without it’s controversy. Press and fans alike roasted Isiah Thomas over the pick, who added fuel to the fire with comparisons to Dennis Rodman. But slowly, the Staten Island native began to win Knick fans over. Balkman’s first breakout game was Nov 15th against the Wizards, in which he had 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. After that game, a KB commenter said “Balkman probably won?t score this well very often, but his defense and rebounding are pretty dependable. If he does learn to be even an average scorer, he?ll be a special player for years to come.” Although Balkman’s minutes fluctuated throughout the season, he brought his high energy game on the floor each time.
Renaldo Balkman is an athletic player that can fill up every area of a boxscore. Per 40 minutes he averages approximately 2 blocks, steals, turnovers, and assists. He’s a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, his 11.1 reb/40 was second on the Knicks only to the marvelous David Lee (13.9 reb/40). When grabbing a rebound, Balkman is able to bring it up the floor quickly giving the Knicks an opportunity to score in transition. Defensively Balkman looks well not only by traditional methods (steals and blocks), but by modern methods and to the naked eye. The Knicks were an astounding 9.2 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Balkman on the floor. Like Tayshaun Prince, Balkman’s freakishly long reach and leaping ability allows him to make up for mistakes, both his own and his teammates. However Balkman doesn’t have Prince’s one-on-one shut down ability.
Unfortunately Balkman does have his weaknesses, and they are all on the offensive end. The Knicks’ forward has no ability to score in the half court set with the ball. Balkman can’t hit a jump shot from any range, nor does he seem to be able to beat his man off the dribble, nor does he have any post game, nor can he hit a free throw. Even Jared Jeffries has his “Jeffrightened” post move. Balkman’s offense relies on other players. He moves exceptionally well without the ball, is always looking to get an offensive rebound, and can finish strongly around the hoop.
Balkman finished third on the team in PER and second in WP/48 combined with his strong +/- showed that he had a successful year. Considering it was a rookie campaign from a late round pick, it’s hard to be too harsh on Balkman.
KnickerBlogger’s Grade: A-
2008 Outlook: Balkman needs to work on his half court game. If he doesn’t develop a jump shot, some kind of driving ability, or a post up game, he’ll be stuck as a 7th/8th man. If I were Balkman, I would either ask Quentin Richardson for some low post tips, or head to Bruce Bowen’s corner for a few hours every day.
Dave Crockett: Ditto Mike’s comments with one addition. Balkman’s natural inclination is to grab a defensive board and push the ball. New York should do much more of that. What I’d like to see from him this summer is work on a mid-range jump shot. I think a three point shot may be a bit down the road for him. Bruce Bowen was in the league a lot of years before he developed that shot.
Brian Cronin: I have to differ with Mike slightly on the grading, if only because I am a bit less willing to give Balkman a “mulligan” for being picked so late in the first round.
I will gladly give Isiah Thomas an A- for the pick, as it has turned out to be a great pick (and might I please point out that I backed up Zeke right from the start, saying that I had faith in his pick), but while Balkman’s rate stats are quite good, the room for improvement in his shot and his free throws are just so glaring, I don’t see myself looking at the guy as a “nearly complete” player, which I think an A- would indicate. So I am going with a B.