You Bet Your Assets: EuroKnicks

In the always on world of the Intertubes there is no offseason. There is no basketball frontier to remote or obscure. Ball is life. 24-7-365. Anywhere, everywhere, always and forever. Ball is life.

With that in mind, I thought I’d turn my attention to a couple of assets controlled by the Knicks, that are sometimes out of sight and out of mind. The two assets in question are our dear European Knicks – Louis Labeyrie and Guillermo “Willy” Hernangomez. You remember them, right? They’re the Knicks we haven’t invited to meet the parents yet.

It’s become increasingly possible to follow the development of far away players via the Internet. There are a number of high quality projects dedicated to scouting different leagues, compiling data and highlights, and communicating regularly with fans about very special things. Thank the basketball gods that such projects are possible and that smart, talented folks have channeled their passions into stuff for us to enjoy instead of work or actual human relationships.

It is via these services I bring you a look into the development of our EuroKnicks, and I’ll start with the longest tenured EuroKnick prospect Louis Labeyrie.

Labeyrie was selected in the 2nd round by the Knicks at the tail end of Phil Jackson’s first draft with the team. When his name was announced, I imagine three people in the civilized world had ever heard it uttered aloud before. Two of them were Louis’ parents. Labeyrie wasn’t a highly thought of prospect when he was selected and he only really showed limited upside in the various basketball camps he attended to show the world his skeels. To this day, I’m not really sure what Phil and company saw in Labeyrie that made him worthy of an actual, honest to goodness draft selection, but they took him and he’s ours.

Labeyrie had never really established much of a track record, playing in the LNB for Paris-Levallois club. He was a low minute reserve, as are many very young prospects. Louis managed to work himself onto the Knicks summer league team in Las Vegas, but as you might remember (or not), he averaged 10 nondescript minutes over four games and was gone. What you most certainly do not know is that he returned to his Parisian home club and has finally cracked 22 minutes per game over the club’s 8 games and is averaging 10.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, .6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s hitting half a three per game and his shooting line goes .642/.400/.579 so far. Labeyrie has demonstrated this sort of per-36 value in the French pro-league before. He’s only 23 this year, and he’s alternated this sort of production with some lesser production in his 4+ seasons as a Euro-pro. This season’s minutes are a pretty substantial bump, so it’s nice to see him keep up the good work. A couple of highlights for Louis in this young season have been games versus Villeurbanne and Chalon. I don’t know what either of those teams are, nor do I claim to have a good grasp on the level of competition in France, but the production seems positive whatever the case. There are a ton of French players in the NBA nowadays, and France is always competitive in the Eurocup, so I expect the level is relatively high all things considered. The game lines:

Villeurbanne – 14 points, 9 rebounds, a steal, 5 blocks in 34 minutes. 7/11 shooting from the field.

Chalon – 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, a block in 26 minutes. 8/8 shooting from the field and 3/3 from three.

Paris-Levallois are 3-6 in league play….so there’s that. On the other hand, we have our young Porzingis buddy, Willy Hernangomez. Willy was selected by the Sixers in the 2nd round of Krisdraft and traded to the Knicks for 37 future second round picks, give or take a dozen. Why were the Knicks so high on Willy? I expect that one reason is that he looked excellent next to Kristaps playing in the ACB for Sevilla. As Clarence Gaines zeroed in on Krakeem Porzinguwon, Hernangomez became hard to ignore. After the Knicks acquired his draft rights, word came out that Willy is only one of 7 players in Spanish League history to produce a PER of 20 or more at the age of 20 or younger. In addition to Willy, only Stanley Roberts, Tiago Splitter, Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic, and Luis Scola have accomplished that feat. Hernangomez did it for Sevilla, thanks in part to the disfunction of that club and its need to thrust a young player into a high profile position. Kristaps benefitted from that situation as well. This season Willy has returned to the pro club that held his promising rights, Real Madrid.

Before suiting up for Real, we were treated to a little WHG action during the Eurobasket competition that saw our young fella join forces with Pau Gasol, Mirotic, and the rest of the Spanish national team. In the early going, he got some run and produced very nicely, but as the competition got more serious his minutes became an afterthought. In the young Real Madrid season, Willy has seen limited playing time, as one would expect for a 21-year old on a world class team. He’s only cracked 10 minutes in three of the team’s 7 ACB games (6-1) to date, but his per-36 numbers are very encouraging. Playing behind Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Gustavo Ayon, and Andres Nocioni, WHG is averaging 18.8 points, 12 rebounds, a steal, and 2.6 blocks on .667 shooting from the field, per-36. Of course, you have to take those kind of extrapolations with a grain of salt, but it is encouraging that the rates are identical to his Sevilla numbers, where he played a much larger role the last couple of years. He’s very productive.

Before sitting down to write this piece, I would have sworn up and down that Labeyrie was garbage and that Hernangomez is our future Gasol brother, waiting in the wings. I’m not sure I have enough information or expertise in such matters to render a sound judgment, but the Interwebs make this sort of thing a lot of fun. I’m now ready to imagine that Labeyrie is Renaldo Balkman on Super Soldier Serum and that Willy Hernangomez bends time and space. If you want my real, non-scientific, limited exposure opinion on these guys, I’d have to imagine that Labeyrie stands little chance of every contributing in the NBA. I’d argue, however, that the Knicks may have stolen WHG in the second round, although those 37 future picks are bound to hurt at some point. Hernangomez comes from a family of top level Spanish players. Mom and dad both played. His brother is a very good youth player. His sister is now starting to rise up the ranks of women’s youth basketball in Spain. He’s in elite company with some of the metrics. He passes the eye test. He’s been selected at a very young age to play alongside Pau Gasol and company. Real Madrid wanted him enough that they plucked him back from Sevilla. He played well with Porzingod. I’m hoping that he’ll show up to play for the Knicks next season and begin a journey that lies somewhere between Scola and Gasol for many years to come.

In the meantime, it will be fun to update this little look at our assets, mainly because I love to show you my assets, and we can commence with conjecture and faux-expert analysis as a means to love one another in Knickdom.

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31 thoughts to “You Bet Your Assets: EuroKnicks”

  1. Very nice update and a good topic. Many thanks. The Knicks have a good history picking European players and, as I have said before, I think their European scouting organization is good. I also like their strategy better than Hinkies. We endured one season of horror but now have a rootable team because the Knicks didn’t just target stars. They went after competent players on reasonable contracts too. Hinkie seems to want to only swing for the fences. Of course that strategy brings strikeouts as well as hits, and Philadelphia fans are now suffering.

  2. Really good write up on the Knicks’ prospects overseas. I laughed pretty hard at the 37 draft picks line until I realized we really have no 2nd round picks. I’m hopeful Labeyrie can eventually sign a contract with the Knicks, and I think Hernangomez has a decent shot of starting for the Knicks when he’s maybe 26. Either way, it’s good to see that we have some bets placed that these two will eventually be able to contribute to our team. The Knicks’ scouting department in Europe knows what it’s doing, so I’ll continue to put my faith in them.

    Obligatory Porzingis tribute.

  3. How crazy is it that New York’s 8-7 record would be tied for 5th best record in the Western Conference but would have us out of the playoffs in the East?

  4. One thing as a fan that I’m excited about is when Willy H comes across the pond we get to see some KP camraderie–apparently they were best friends at Sevilla and if they’re both able to have fertile careers with the Knicks (or even just one year together) that’ll be really fun to watch.

    There is the side benefit that Hernangomez also seems like a mid first round pick in next year’s draft so that trade was a decent value proposition (iirc we traded two seconds for him). I like him.

  5. I’m hoping WHG is in a Knicks uniform next season. He can cut his teeth as a backup center for a couple of years, but if he looked as good as he did playing next to Porzingis in the ACB every game, why can’t he do it in the NBA too? He’s played at every other level, and proved that he fits in. The Euro-trend of sitting talented young players behind established vets has hidden some very good players from view. The NBA is a league almost exclusively based on merit, and if you can ball, you’ll get some minutes. I expect WHG could see as many as 20-25 minutes for the Knicks if he’s that good.

    Anyway, that’s what I hope. It would be nice to have another young, talented player on a tiny contract for a few years. With the cap going up, to grab a handful of young rotation players on low $ deals is huge.

  6. Some of the Knicks’ other options at the 4 and 5– O’Quinn, Seraphin and Amundson namely– are a bit lackluster. I think O’Quinn should be getting more burn, but it’s not hard imagining Hernangomez beating out those guys for minutes or roster spots in the near future.

  7. The Knicks don’t have their own second round pick in 2017, but I think they have Rockets pick which they acquired in the Prigioni trade.

  8. “until I realized we really have no 2nd round picks.”
    I don’t think that that is accurate. The Knicks have traded away their own picks, but gotten picks back from other teams — like in the Prigioni trade. I could be wrong, but I think that the Knicks don’t have a pick this year (unless their second round pick falls in the 31-36 range, in which case they get their own pick back — so I’m pretty sure that most of us hope that they don’t get it back) but, in each of the next 5 drafts, they have their own first and someone else’s second round pick.

  9. The Knicks don’t have their own second round pick in 2017, but I think they have Rockets pick which they acquired in the Prigioni trade.

  10. By the way, Stanley Roberts played in Spain at age 20?? I don’t know if I ever knew that but, if I did, I certainly didn’t remember it.

  11. NY Post: “Kristaps Porzingis really wants to meet Jerry Ferrara”

    C’mon, KP, you’re a star now, set your sights a little higher than Turtle!

  12. All I remember from Labeyrie in the summer league is that you got the sense he was looking to fight someone. I don’t know how good the French league is, but I do know it’s better to play well than to play poorly, so hey, maybe he’s got a shot at being a useful contributor.

    That Big Willy is on both the Spanish national team and a traditional powerhouse like Real Madrid at such a tender age is encouraging. If he keeps up the level of play he’s shown so far he’d probably be a late lotto/mid first pick (mainly because he’s not explosive), so that was definitely a nice bit of business by the triangulator. Here’s an article with a bit of analysis on Willy in the Euroleague

  13. but, in each of the next 5 drafts, they have their own first and someone else’s second round pick.

    We don’t have a second round pick of our very own until 2022 (seriously). We do, however, have a 2nd rounder in 2017 and two in 2019 that we picked up in trades.

  14. While it seemed to me that drafting of Labeyrie was throwing a dart at a dart board pick, Willy grabbed my attention. You can’t teach 6’11”, 255 lbs. He’s 21, athletic and playing against real competition. He looks like a handful down low. He also looks like a solid mid-1st round pick and I see him coming off the bench for the Knicks next year where he’ll replace Seraphin or Amundson on the roster.

  15. Can someone please rule out a midseason Kobe trade?

    its clear they wont give any major value, but someone please ease my mind and rule it out completely.

    Thank you in advance.

  16. its clear they wont give any major value, but someone please ease my mind and rule it out completely.

    I’m not sure we could even pull off a Kobe trade, cap-wise, without just sending them Melo, though I haven’t played with the Trade Machine to check. So I wouldn’t worry.

  17. The Knicks have no use for Kobe Bryant or his contract. He’s playing like a poor man’s Aaron Afflalo at this point.

  18. I know they have no use, but we also had no use for Steve Francis, Jalen Rose , Penny Hardaway etc… Our history dictates its on the table and this frightens me.

  19. @16

    Kobe Bryant didn’t play his entire 20 year career in LA to go somewhere else during the stretch run to retirement. Imagine Derek Jeter getting shipped to the LA Angels at the All-Star Break during his farewell.

  20. Pretty excited for Hernangomez. Seems like his PNR game is advanced and he started working on his jumper last year, which I believe he was able to hit from mid-range at a decent percentage though not a very high volume. His ability to dive and finish seems like it would dovetail well with Porzingis’ floor stretching.

    It does suck not to have our own 2nd round pick for awhile, but Phil is still positive on a net gain of picks since he’s taken over so it’s likely that either we’ll find a way to trade for some 2nd rounder or he’ll buy his way back in to the 2nd round.

  21. Our discussion of Hernanogomez in the summer suggested his defense wasn’t that great. I’m wondering if he’s shown any signs of improvement. This becomes less of a concern now that we know what a defensive hell-raiser Porzingis is, as I can picture the two of them playing alongside in some units.

  22. Agreed Lavor.

    WHG’s game around the hoop is “under the rim” type stuff, but he makes a lot of space with his body for both rebounding and getting up high percentage shots. He’s like the anti-Kyle O’Quinn in that regard. I like the Euro-drafting business. It’s still a good strategy.

  23. @24

    His blocks rate has doubled this year at Real Madrid, although the sample size is way to small to suggest anything. He’s young, so there’s definitely room to improve on defense.

  24. Phil isn’t going to trade for Kobe. The only way he would ever come here is as a free agent and I highly doubt that happens either.

  25. When thinking about a potential trade ask “is this trade pants on head retarded”? If it is, Phil won’t do it. He’s made some mistakes as GM, but he’s not Zeke

  26. I could cynically speculate that Dolan will force this on Phil to put fannies in the seats, but since they already sell out every game anyway, what would be the point?

    Plus, Kobe and Melo on the court at the same time would make THCJ’s head explode, and I’d rather not clean up the mess.

  27. Great piece, Mike. That’s why we all pay the big bucks to subscribe to this blog.

    Plus, Kobe and Melo on the court at the same time would make THCJ’s head explode, and I’d rather not clean up the mess.

    Yeah, but he’s in Portland now, so it’d be someone else’s problem.

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