What Tim Hardaway and C.J. Leslie Will Bring to NY Knicks
The New York Knicks made two solid moves at the 2013 NBA Draft and have certainly gotten their offseason started on the right note.
In desperate need of some young talent, the Knicks took Tim Hardaway Jr. with the No. 24 overall pick, and followed that by picking up undrafted free agent C.J. Leslie out of NC State, who many thought would be a late first-rounder.
Let's breakdown the thinking behind each selection, and what this means for the rest of the Knicks' offseason:
What Tim Hardaway Jr. Brings to the Table
With plenty of needs, it made sense for the Knicks to go after their best player available, and they've certainly found a solid NBA-ready piece in Hardaway.
The 6'6" guard is used to the big stage after three years at Michigan, and should relish the opportunity to play at MSG.
Unlike his dad, Hardaway isn't an elite ball-handler, but he still has what it takes to be an effective role player in the NBA. He has a prototypical build for a shooting guard, and excels as a spot-up shooter.
Hardaway shot 36 percent from beyond the arc last season, averaging 14.2 points per game for the Wolverines in their run to the NCAA Championship game. That will make him a great fit in the Knicks' offense, where he can spread the floor and essentially give them another option to take the pressure of Carmelo Anthony.
Melo said earlier in the offseason to the NY Post that he felt the Knicks needed more consistent scoring, and with limited cap flexibility, drafting Hardaway is an effective way of addressing the need.
On the defensive end, Hardaway is competitive, and he should do a decent job on the perimeter. He's by no means a great defender, but his frame and athleticism will make him tough to score on.
In terms of personality, the Knicks have found a player who's going to be a consummate professional. He won't step out of line, and motivation will never be an issue. If anything, he could do with becoming more assertive on the offensive end, especially when it comes to getting to the basket.
With the chance to play on a veteran team, Hardaway should find the transition to the NBA relatively easy. He's in a great situation, and the likes of Mike Woodson and Tyson Chandler are going to get the best out of him right away.
What C.J. Leslie Brings to the Table
The Knicks were quick to pick up C.J. Leslie as soon as he went undrafted, and he could end up being a lot more than just a hopeful summer league invitee.
Leslie is a ridiculous athlete, and is a player many thought could even be picked late in the first round. That may be a stretch, but it's certainly surprising that he wasn't drafted at all, and he could end up being an absolute steal for the Knicks.
New York is in desperate need of some energy and athleticism in their frontcourt, but it's unlikely that they'll be able to find that in free agency with the money they have to spend, especially if they want to bring back Chris Copeland.
Bringing in Leslie gives them a cheap option to address the need, and there's a good chance he'll make the roster. Standing at 6'9", he can play at either forward spot, where his incredible 7'3" wingspan could cause a lot of match-up problems.
Though Leslie is relatively raw, he has started to develop a useful post-game, but will get most of his points in the NBA finishing above the rim. He's yet to develop a truly reliable mid-range game, but with such a high release, there's definitely potential for something there.
With all that said, we must remember that a player with so much upside and athleticism does't go undrafted for no reason. Leslie has yet to make great use of his physical tools and lacked the determination to make a bigger name for himself in college ball.
Still, this is the ultimate low-risk, high-reward move for the Knicks because an intense coach like Woody may be able to get him on the right track. Just look at the way Melo and J.R. Smith have played since he took over in 2012.
What This Means for the Rest of the Offseason
The biggest thing to take away from New York's draft day activity is that it is now in a position to potentially let go of J.R. Smith.
That may sound crazy—especially since they won't be able to spend the money they can offer him on anyone else—but it could work out. We all know that Smith is an erratic player, and it's not ideal to rely on him for so much of the team's offensive production.
Instead, the Knicks could look to replace Smith's offense by committee. His departure would mean more shots for Hardaway, Iman Shumpert and Chris Copeland (who would have to be re-signed in order for this to work).
That way, the team won't suffer if one player has a bad shooting night, and instead will be able to get their scoring from multiple sources. Contending teams are supposed to have a go-to second option, but if that player is only shooting 40 percent from the field, it might be best to go with the team route.
Of course, this move doesn't mean J.R. is definitely leaving town. If he spends time at small forward, which he did last season, there will still be plenty of minutes available for Hardaway and Shumpert to make significant contributions to the team.
It also wouldn't be wise to let go of such a great asset, especially if he's willing to sign for a reasonable contract. Even if he continues to play inconsistently, it would make sense to bring back Smith just to trade him at the deadline, so they can at least get something of value in return.
Beyond Smith, the Knicks now enter free agency with two clear needs: a backup point guard and frontcourt depth.
The way things are looking, New York may have to spend the full taxpayers' exception on bringing back Copeland, which will mean they can only use the veteran's minimum to fill their needs.
If that's the case, they should focus on re-signing Kenyon Martin, and then looking at the likes of Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair and Josh Selby as potential backups for Raymond Felton.
Alternatively, they could choose not to use the mini mid-level on Copeland, which will allow them to go after one of the better available point guards, like Will Bynum or Nate Robinson. If they do that, though, they will need to bring in a small forward with the veteran's minimum. Either option will work, and they'll essentially just be choosing whether they want scoring at the 1 or at the 3.
All in all, this is a good start to the Knicks' offseason. There's still plenty of work to do, but they've added a role player and an interesting prospect, increasing their flexibility regarding Smith in the process.
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