With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year’s I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.
Small Forwards: What and when is the upside?
I’d argue that a player’s upside represents the best & worst of the fan experience. Often, team followers are told that there’s a chance that one of their young players will become an All Star. Comparisons are made to marble gods, present and past, and expectations are set high. Unfortunately the path to stardom for most players doesn’t occur as quickly as most would hope, and for the rest the road is littered with many failures. It’s akin to watching a kettle boil, without knowing if the stove is on.
Often the problem of unrealized potential stems from faulty analysis of the player, who was never meant for stardom. Players like Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford had some of the same skills of stars, but neither had the production of one. The difference between let’s say Curry and Jermaine O’Neal is that the latter had statistically significant numbers at an early age that pointed to a higher ceiling.
Hence why I’m a bit optimistic on both Danilo Gallinari & Anthony Randolph. As I’ve said before, one of Gallo’s most comparable players is Dirk Nowitzki, while Randolph has Vlade Divac, Amar’e Stoudemire, Antonio McDyess, Shawn Kemp, and Elton Brand in his top 10. Even though this doesn’t mean both are destined for greatness (Gallo has Chase Budinger as a top comp, and Randolph’s two closest are Mike Gminski and Cliff Robinson), it shows that the two are productive enough to indicate they still could reach another level.
For Gallo to reach his potential, he needs to increase his scoring volume, without damaging his TS% (career: 58.0%). Last year he averaged 16.0 pts/36, which was a nice improvement from his first year. Nowitzki improved his pts/36 by three points in his third season, and over the next two seasons added almost another three. For Gallinari to show he’s a viable option for the 2013 All Star Game, you’d like to see him upwards of 18 pts/36, even perhaps closer to 19 or 20. But points alone aren’t enough, as Dirk also saw his rebounds and assists increase. A more rounded game would be a good sign for Gallo as well.
On the other hand Randolph might be the anti-Gallinari. He’s already a good rebounder and shot blocker, but struggles mightily with his efficiency. His shot judgement is so bad, it’s like he’s a kid that just played NBA Live and is not trying out all the cool moves he’s just seen. Luckily offensive efficiency usually improves with age, but he needs a good coaching staff that will dissect his offensive game and rebuild it one piece at a time.
Just because both players have a good foundation in which to build a strong NBA career, it doesn’t mean that either will reach it this year, if ever. Gallinari is a year older than Randolph, and right at the age where you expect most players to start taking big steps forward. If he fails to improve this year, it doesn’t mean that he’ll never get there. However it does make it a harder climb. Randolph probably has another year or two before he’d start to mature. So although the Knicks youth will help them in the future, at SF, it’s not likely to make a big dent this year. Of course if the Knicks deal one or both to Denver for Carmelo Anthony, then potential won’t be an issue in 2011.
Yes I ignored Patrick Ewing, Jr., who might make the team. He’s a good rebounder, which is what the team could use. However he’s 26 and barely on the team, nevertheless in the rotation. So I’m not sure what kind of contribution he can make either this year, or in the future.