Is Jeremy Tyler’s Roster Spot in Jeopardy?

The New York Knicks announced on October 7th that Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, and Jeremy Tyler will not be suiting up for their first three preseason games.

No one expected Smith to play at all or Stoudemire to play much this preseason, but Tyler’s early absence puts him in a precarious position as his contract is only partially guaranteed. He underwent foot surgery last month and his return has been pegged at eight to ten weeks. Best case scenario, he’d be back in mid-November.

Tyler is an intriguing project big, but given the need to keep Chandler’s MPG down and the kid gloves with which they’ve donned to handle Kenyon Martin thus far, there’s a need for a dependable backup.

There are a lot of things to like about Tyler. First and foremost, his height and size (6’10”, 250 lbs) has the frame to man the middle given the relative dearth of traditional, low-post bigs, especially considering that the bulk of his PT will be coming against 2nd stringers.

It’s also important to remember that despite three years of professional experience. Tyler is only 22 years old. He’s a very raw talent, but there have been flashes of competent play. In the Knicks’ last game of Summer League, they were pitted  against the Los Angeles Clippers, and Tyler had what could be termed a breakout game. He flashed the offensive skills that spurred interest by  schools like Louisville, UCLA and USC before he ultimately decided to play overseas in Israel and Japan. Tyler scored 20 points at a very efficient 52.7 percent rate, finished in transition with some spectacular dunks, displayed impressive footwork on the block, and looked comfortable in the pick-and-roll.

It’s to easy to push Tyler’s Summer League performance aside and say, “Let’s see if it can translate in the regular season.”  That’s fair,  because we really haven’t seen much of him in the NBA. Last season with the Golden State Warriors he amassed a whopping 7 minutes and 28 seconds in a January contest against the Miami Heat.

Even though Tyler hasn’t seen a ton of floor time the last two seasons, he did excel in his limited stints in the D-League. In the 2011-12 season, Tyler played 29 mpg for the Dakota Wizards and totaled 15.6 ppg and also added 7.8 rpg. It was only 5 games, but Tyler didn’t waste the opportunity, and in doing so improved his game. Funny how that works.

Tyler spent a tad more time in the D-League this past season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, improving on his 2011-12 stint by scoring 17.4 ppg and 8.8 rpg over 12 games.  He scored and rebounded more, but his TS% fell from 61 percent to 56 percent mainly because he attempted more free throws, which are definitely not a strength of his. In his 12 games with Santa Cruz, Tyler shot an unsightly 60 percent from the charity stripe.

Tyler is still far from being a starter in the league, but at this point, that’s not necessary. He needs to focus on improving what he’s already good at– scoring and rebounding. Tyler has struggled coming off pick-and-rolls on defense, but a lot of Tyler’s defensive issues can be improved with quality coaching and the chance to go up against older, better players on a daily basis in practice.  Again,  he’s only 22 and even though right now he’s a liability on defense it’s not beyond the pale to suggest that Tyler can become a passable defender in time.

The Knicks figure to use their last three roster spots (or at least two of them) on frontcourt players. Camp invitees Ike Diogu, Cole Aldrich, and Josh Powell — who each have NBA experience — will have a great opportunity to impress the front office in the preseason.

Is Tyler’s roster spot in any real danger? Well, unless  the Knicks need a seventh guard in Murry or Douglas-Roberts, and assuming that Leslie probably will make the team, the numbers are still in his favor. That said, the sooner Tyler can get back on the court the better for him and the team. The Knicks frontline is thin and finding a dependable backup for Chandler has been an ongoing, 2+ year quest. Martin filled in admirably at the end of last season, and if he can stay healthy, he should soak up a great many of the backup minutes.

This may be Tyler’s best chance to carve a niche in the NBA, but he’s certainly got the potential to be a young asset on a still-veteran Knick team that’s not exactly riddled with cheap developmental prospects.

Can Delonte West or Beno Udrih fill the void left by Jason Kidd?

The Knicks’ front office has been active this summer making a number of moves to try and keep the team in some semblance of contention. They’ve thus far traded for Andrea Bargnani, re-signed JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Pablo Prigioni, and brought aboard the recently-amnestied — and forever volatile — Metta World Peace.

Yet, glancing at the current depth chart — even with the all the offseason additions — the Knicks clearly have a number of roster issues that need to be addressed.

Mike Woodson might be bringing back a lot familiar faces from last year’s squad, but the absence of Jason Kidd as the team’s steady backup point guard remains arguably the biggest void. Kidd — whose production plummeted in the playoffs, where he tallied a robust 0.9 ppg — retired, landing another NBA gig somewhere else. Can’t remember where. But even given Kidd’s infamous playoff woes, it’s easy to forget how important he was to the Knicks’ early season success, when the team sprinted out of the gate to the tune of a 21-8 tear.

Despite his age, Kidd was a guy the Knicks leaned on pretty heavily during the regular season, where he played major minutes (at least 30 minutes per game in 36 outings, per NBA.com) and contributed both inside and outside the box score.

Kidd’s scoring production (a mere six points per game) is very much replaceable, but perhaps the biggest post-Kidd challenge facing Woodson will be finding a new combo guard(s) to fill the minutes Kidd’s departure leaves open.

Of all the 5-man units Woodson used last season that tallied at least 30 minutes together, the most successful unit consisted of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Melo, and Chandler — a quintet that played a team-high 269.9 minutes, per 82games.com. What separated this unit from the rest was their incredibly efficient  +137 when they were on the court together — an impressive number, to be sure.

So who fills the void? The Knicks are reportedly interested in the services of combo-guards Delonte West and Beno Udrih. Udrih is most definitely the better — and pricier — option to fill the combo-slot alongside with Prigioni, for a couple of reasons.

First, Udrih is a much better passer than West. Over the course of his 9-year NBA career, Udrih went from averaging roughly four assists per 36 minutes to close to seven per 36 last season.

West is the better shooter, but he also shoots more then Udrih. A lot more. Which poses its own potential problem: bringing in a player like West to a backcourt that features JR Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni begs a simple question of available shots. The Knicks have plenty of scoring options already in place, so focusing on adding another combo guard who’s primary instincts are to shoot — and not create for others — is probably not the way to go.

We also have a pretty good idea of what Udrih is going to bring to the table if he’s brought aboard instead of West; the former played major minutes for the Orlando Magic down the stretch last season, while the latter didn’t suit up for a single NBA game.

While Udrih is probably worth more then what the Knicks will be able to pay him (the veteran’s minimum) he is on the north side of 30, where he may be willing to accept a little less to play for a playoff team.

With a recent knee surgery expected to sideline J.R. Smith for the start of the 2013-14 season, the Knicks find themselves in a situation not unlike the beginning of last year, when it was Iman Shumpert whom the Knicks were waiting to return from his own, decidedly more serious injury.

Whether they end up with Udrih, West, or someone else entirely, New York’s newest signee will likely be counted on for some major minutes — and production — to start the season.

Pelicans 77, Knicks 72: Knicks fall in Summer League opener

In what was a really close game throughout the day, the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the New York Knicks in their Las Vegas Summer League opener yesterday afternoon, thanks in part to a huge afternoon from Austin Rivers.

Rivers, who had a rookie year he’d like to forget, elevated the Pelicans with twenty-four points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists.

Iman Shumpert, playing for the Knicks Summer League squad, got a pretty good amount of burn, which is hardly surprising: with the Knicks point guard depth lacking a bit going into the 2013-14 season, the plan seems to be to let Shumpert handle a few minutes a night running the point.

There’s just one problem: Shumpert is not capable of running point in the NBA. Today’s game was just another example: he missed all of his shots, didn’t attack the rim, and turned the ball over a bunch of times. He did manage to contribute on the glass — something he’s excelled at so far in the league.

Along with Shumpert, the Knicks rolld out Jeremy Tyler, C.J. Leslie and Tim Hardaway Jr. for hefty minutes today. Tyler looked the most comfortable with team, adding eleven rebounds, ten points, five fouls, was consistently active, and definitely came across looking like a player the Knicks could use in a thin front court this season.

Hardaway Jr. got the most minutes today, and what we saw was pretty much expected — high volume shooting, finishing with a rough 4-12 FGA/FGM for the day, including 1-6 from deep.

It might be a day Hardaway would like to forget, but that’s why they call it Summer League.

C.J. Leslie stuck, for the most part, with what seemed like the Knicks program for the day: not making many shots. Leslie went 2-9 from the field, and never really looked comfortable. Part of this might have to do with Leslie’s unique situation; unlike Hardaway Jr., Leslie has no idea if he fits in the Knicks somewhat long-term plans. Leslie is one of those guys who is going to get a lot of minutes this summer, but has to play a lot better then he did today if he wants to make the 15-man roster.

Two guys that most are probably not familiar with that had good games today were Toure Murry and Eloy Vargas. Murry was the only Knick to shoot the ball well, going 4-6 from the field and notching eleven points in just twelve minutes of play.

Vargas, along with Tyler, had a nice day inside — not so much on the defensive or rebounding side of things, but he did add nine points on 4-5 shooting.

Murry and Vargas came off as the two guys who should probably get a bigger role in the next couple of games, to see what they can do in 30+ minutes of action.

The Knicks next game is Sunday afternoon against the Washington Wizards at 4:00 EST.

Knicks sign Quentin Richardson

General Manager Glen Grunwald announced Tuesday morning that the Knicks will sign free agent veteran swingman Quentin Richardson.

Richardson’s roster spot was made available after the team signed and then promptly waived forward-center Solomon Jones after playing in just two regular season contests.

Richardson previously played with the Knicks from 2005 until 2009, averaging 9.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game during his stint.

The 6-foot-6 Richardson is expected to augment the Knickss arsenal of shooters, while hopefully providing some reliable perimeter defense.

Richardson has long been known as an above average three-point shooter, particularly from the corner. In 2006, his second season with the Knicks, Richardson shot nearly 38 percent from distance.

A 12-year veteran from DePaul, Richardson played with the Orlando Magic last season but was waived during training camp last fall. His career averages of 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds aren’t exactly eye-popping, and he doesn’t add much in the way of size to an already depleted front court.

However, Richardson has traditionally rebounded well for his size, and his solid defense could pay some spot dividends along a playoff path that could include Paul George, LeBron James and — more immediately — Paul Pierce.

Because he was waived prior to the regular season, Richardson is eligible for the postseason roster. The Knicks were also apparently eyeing Delonte West.

 

Jeremy Lin, By The Books

Jeremy Lin is your textbook point guard. He focuses on penetrating into the lane, keeping his dribble until an option presents itself, and making the safe pass to the open man. He appears poised at times, but that doesn’t prevent him from playing an energetic brand of basketball. Lin is averaging 1.7 stl/36 and is able to run the fast break.

The Knicks, lately devoid of Melo and STAT, are on a three-game win streak since D’Antoni inserted Lin into the lineup during the Nets game. Perhaps it’s because Lin fits the Knicks better than the other point guards on the roster. Douglas and Bibby frequently pick up their dribble and prefer to stay outside the arc instead of “wetting” their feet in the paint.

Like Steve Nash or Jason Kidd, Lin weaves in and out of the paint, continuing his dribble even through crowds of defenders. Once he’s near the basket, he has an innate ability to assess the defense. If it’s one-on-one, he can finish at the rim and has the knack for drawing the and-1 foul, as seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5vKayhN2Ug. If he is double-teamed, he either kicks it out to a shooter, or finds a big man rolling to the hoop, like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B3MRqMwh54.

In the last three games, Jeremy is shooting 59% from the field, 80% from the line, and averaging 25 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds in 39 minutes per game. His shot still needs work, but the form looks good. Most of his jumpers so far have fallen short, which would indicate his legs aren’t in “basketball shape.” Thus far Lin has faced some of the league’s weaker teams. As the season progresses opponents will prepare better for him by crowding the middle, taking away his right hand, and forcing him to take more jump shots. The Lakers on Friday will be his toughest challenge to date.

Jeremy Lin is a Harvard grad who went undrafted in 2010. His game may be elementary, but Lin seems to be excelling where other players from big name schools have failed.