Porzingis, Grant Ahead Of Where Previously Thought; NDour A Pleasant Surprise

By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks have three summer league games in the books, all wins, and there’s been a lot to digest.

The Offense

Unlike last year’s summer league team, also coached by Derek Fisher, the Knicks have run far less of their offense out of the triangle. There are many more screen rolls, picks and drags off the ball, and the same vanilla sets on every play. It has looked like a continuation of the type of the stuff the Knicks ran towards the end of the last season when their offense took off. The triangle will still be the basis of the offense, but it looks like it will vary far more. It would be great if Fisher brought this offense into the regular season.

Kristaps Porzingis

Although his numbers have been average (10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks per game), his performance has been about as positive as it could be. He hasn’t been featured in the offense much or taken many shots, but when he has shot, they have usually been good shots and have gone in (60 percent from the floor). He hasn’t shown his 3-point range yet, but his mid-range jumper is soft and pure. He has also shown the ability to use the glass. His footwork close to the basket has been solid. He is a better passer than advertised and has almost been unselfish to a fault.

Most impressive has been everything but his offense. He moves his feet well on defense and can keep players in front of him in the pick and roll. He does not shy away from contact, and while he has been moved by stronger players, he has not been bullied. He gets his hands straight up and blocks shots, including three against Jahlil Okafor on Tuesday. He is also very mature and has a good head on his shoulders. He has played as a pro in Europe and he acts like one.

There are some things he needs to improve on. He has committed some foolish fouls, but they were fouls of aggression, which can be corrected. He isn’t a very instinctual rebounder. He doesn’t react well or move for the ball when it hits the rim. Sometimes he tries to put the ball on the floor a little too much, which gets him in trouble. And, obviously, he needs to improve his strength.

We know one thing: Porzingis won’t be a bust. He will be a useful role player as a rookie and there is potential for him to be a star, if he can develop his game.

Jerian Grant

Grant has also played as advertised. The first and most noticeable skill has been his ability to get into the lane and either score or find a teammate for an easy shot. He is elusive off the dribble. His court vision and passing is better than what I saw at Notre Dame. He has made some very nice passes, including some noticeable ones to open cutters to the basket, and a few up the court to push the pace and create easy transition opportunities.

There have been a couple things I haven’t liked. He can sometimes hold the ball too long. He has also dribbled himself into some very tough low-percentage step-back jump shots. Some have gone in but they haven’t been great looks. Grant should be an immediate contributor to the Knicks this season, and should be a very good pick-and-roll player right off the bat. I’m still watching his defense and should have a better feel for it when Summer League is over after a couple more games.

Cleanthony Early

Early has been active and has scored a bunch of points, but he hasn’t yet shown anything that would make anyone think he can be a regular NBA rotation player. He still can’t create his own shot off the dribble, his jumper is inconsistent, and his defense is spotty. Don’t write the eulogy for his career yet, but he still has some improving to do.

Langston Galloway

Nothing new, good or bad. We know what he is, but I would like to see him play the pure point guard position a little more.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo

He is a frantic defender with real skills on that side of the court, but he still needs to develop his basketball skills. He still fouls too much and doesn’t have anything resembling an NBA-caliber offensive game. He could be a specialist on the back end of the roster.

Louis Labeyrie

He has only played in two games, and it is obvious what the Knicks like about him. He is a good athlete, very long, he plays defense, and tries hard. Offensively, however, he hasn’t shown the ability to shoot the ball well or create his own shot.

Ricky Ledo

He has scored and created well off the dribble, but his offense has never been the question. Watch his defense closely the rest of this summer.

Travis Wear

It has been a disappointing Summer League for Wear thus far, and he is going to have to play better if he wants to be on the roster.

Maurice NDour

The 6-foot-9, 200-pounder out of Ohio has been the dark horse sleeper so far. He has been active, and has shown a nice mid-range touch. The 23-year-old forward could be a back-up big for the Knicks this season. I am rooting for him since his name is pronounced “Endor” and I can make a lot of Star Wars jokes.

Alex Kirk

Known for his defense leaving New Mexico, Kirk played five games for the Cavs last season and has impressed this summer. He has shown a soft touch from the perimeter, but his shot selection has been questionable at best. He and NDour will battle for the backup big on the Knicks. Both could get camp invites to compete for a spot.

For all things Knicks, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk