NBA Summer League 2012: Breakdown, Predictions for New York Knicks Roster

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2012

NBA Summer League 2012: Breakdown, Predictions for New York Knicks Roster

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    It has been an incredibly busy offseason around the NBA, and it appears to be just getting started.

    As teams like Orlando and Brooklyn try to complete major deals, the rest of the league is trying to sort out the remaining free-agent crop.

    Juxtaposed against all of this movement is the beginning of real basketball games.

    Well, real-ish.

    The NBA Summer League is beginning this week in both Orlando and Las Vegas, and the Knicks are one of the teams that are looking to mine their Summer League roster for regular-season gold.

    And while other teams boast much bigger names, the Knicks are hoping that they can cultivate some talent out of their ranks to help solidify their regular-season squad.

    Here are some things to look for as the Knicks begin Summer League play.

Toney Needs to Set the Tone

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    For those of you who are planning on tuning in to the Summer League this week, be prepared for ugly play.

    The Summer League tends to break down quickly into pick-up style ball that rewards selfish play.

    That being said, the Knicks have a few roster players who really need to exhibit leadership.

    Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson and Jerome Jordan need to set the tone on both sides of the ball.

    This will be tough considering the fact that the rest of the roster will be looking to play their way onto the big club, but the "vets" need to control the tempo.

    Douglas, who will be entering his fourth year with the Knicks, is crucial in this aspect.

    Toney certainly will see his minutes diminish with the Knicks this year with the signing of Jason Kidd and the likelihood of a Jeremy Lin re-signing, so it will be very important for the point guard to get off on the right foot in the Summer League.

Josh Harrellson Needs to Dominate

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    As a rookie last year, Harrellson showed some real talent.

    Per 36 minutes, he averaged 11 points, 10 boards and close to two steals and blocks per game.

    He needs to improve his shot as well as his free-throw shooting, but that will come with time.

    What I want to see from Harrellson is dominance.

    He has a huge frame, and needs to show that he can handle a bigger role next year.

    Numbers wise, he needs to average between 15 and 20 points per game, and grab at least 10 boards per contest.

    It would also be great to see him protecting the rim to the tune of at least a couple blocks per game.

    He has the size and the talent, he just has to show the desire.

Jerome Jordan Needs to Show a Pulse

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    To be fair, Jerome Jordan is a project.

    He is a legit seven-footer, but he needs to add bulk and show that he can play like a big man.

    In limited minutes last year, he looked pretty good, averaging 14 points and nine boards per 36 minutes, which were more or less his numbers as a senior at Tulsa two years ago. 

    That being said, the Knicks do not have a ton of big bodies on their roster.

    Sure, they more than likely will land Marcus Camby, but Camby is not a long-term solution for the Knicks' lack of size.

    If Jordan can show a glimpse of the talent he exhibited at Tulsa, he could start to gain some minutes for New York this year.

Chris Smith and Ahmad Nivins Need to Seize the Opportunity

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    Of the non-roster invitees, two names stand out.

    Chris Smith, the brother of J.R., and Ahmad Nivins.

    Smith was a very good player last year out of Louisville.

    He averaged only 10 points per game, but shot the ball well and showed sneaky athleticism.

    Nivins was a stud with St. Joseph, chipping in 19 points and 12 boards per game as a senior.

    Neither player will likely become a star in this league, but both could provide some much-needed young depth to a suddenly aging squad.

    Among the other names, Walker Russell Jr. was solid with Detroit last year, and Wesley Witherspoon showed excellent athleticism for Memphis.

    The rest of the names are somewhat unrecognizable for most casual fans, but they could provide some excitement in what tends to be somewhat undisciplined basketball.

The Knicks Need to Secure More Trade Assets

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    Let's be fair, there probably isn't an All-Star caliber player on this year's Knicks Summer League squad.

    Perhaps there aren't even any starters.

    But there is talent, and the Knicks need to showcase it.

    Another reason to showcase their viable talent is to bolster their trading chips.

    The Knicks have a very thin roster right now with technically only nine players under contract for next year.

    Part of their plan to get better next year resides in their ability to swing trades and maneuver the free-agent market.

    In free agency, one of the vital tools is the sign-and-trade. However, if they don't have enough solid talent to complete these deals, they likely will miss out on improving their roster.

    By showcasing Jordan, Harrellson and Douglas, the Knicks improve their odds of swinging a sign-and-trade and moving up in talent for next year.

Predictions

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    Okay Knicks fans, you need to brace yourselves for some ugly basketball.

    The Knicks really haven't stocked their Summer League roster with the best talent.

    Looking at other team's rosters, you see a ton of big names.

    The Celtics have Jared Sullinger and some solid vets, the Pistons feature eight rookies, at least four of which could see sizeable minutes in Detroit, and Utah has guys like Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.

    The good news is that those teams are in Orlando and the Knicks don't have to play them.

    But the talent will be great in Vegas too, and the Knicks will have perhaps the weakest team in their league.

    Personally, I think it will turn into the Douglas and Harrellson show.

    Douglas will control the pace of the game, and even if he isn't feeling it, he will be calling his own number quite a bit.

    Harrellson has an incredibly strong base and will be able to push people around in this league.

    He just needs to remember to play like a big guy.

    I think Jordan will struggle, and so will most of the non-roster invitees.

    That being said, Russell Jr. could shine in this environment. He has incredibly quick hands and should lead the team in steals.

    He also has quick feet and will score a ton.