Knicks Summer League Roster 2013: Biggest Names to Watch for New York

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIJuly 10, 2013

Knicks Summer League Roster 2013: Biggest Names to Watch for New York

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    The New York Knicks have a number of big names headlining their summer league team, and there's a good chance a few could surprise us and make the final roster.

    Obviously, the likes of Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. are going to be on the team regardless, but there are others who have a genuine chance of joining them.

    Due to their lack of cap flexibility, the Knicks are likely going to need one or two of these players to step up and prove themselves worthy of a roster spot, as they can add youth without coming at a major cost.

    Primarily, New York needs help in the frontcourt, and it could definitely use the energy and athleticism some of these players provide if they show their skill level is worthy of the NBA.

    Of the 13 players who'll be on the roster, here are the top six you should be looking out for.

Iman Shumpert

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    There's no introduction needed for Iman Shumpert. He's a lock to make the roster and if anything, we'll be looking for him to step up as one of the team's elite players this season.

    At this point in his career, the fact that Shump is even turning up to summer league is a credit to his work ethic. After missing out the last two years due to injury and the lockout, he doesn't want to miss this opportunity to help refine his game.

    What we really want to see from Shumpert is some improvement on offense. He made major strides as a spot-up shooter last year, but he needs to consistently create his own shot, score off the dribble and get to the rim more often to get to the next level.

    Continuing to work on point guard skills will also be important for Shumpert, as it's inevitable he'll spend time there next season. In order to create minutes for Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith, the Knicks are going to need Shumpert running the point every so often.

    According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, Shumpert may only play the first three games of summer league, but that should be enough time to show off what he's been working on so far in the offseason.

Tim Hardaway Jr.

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    As the No. 24 pick in this year's draft, it's a virtual certainty that Tim Hardaway Jr. will be a rotation player for the Knicks this season, and we'll get our first look at him in orange and blue here in summer league.

    Hardaway agreed to a four-year, $6 million deal with New York on Monday and will be looking for a good start to his professional career.

    Though he doesn't have as much on the line as those without guaranteed contracts, it will be important to see if Hardaway can build chemistry with Iman Shumpert, with whom he'll likely spend a lot of time in the backcourt this season.

    Going up against inferior talent, it will also be nice to see Hardaway show some aggression in getting to the rim, as his shot selection will need to improve at the NBA level. If he can use his jumper a little more sparingly, he could be primed for a very impressive rookie season.

    With Mike Woodson coaching him for the first time, we should see Hardaway start to become a better perimeter defender. He was decent in college, but with some more consistency, he could be a difference-maker on that end of the floor.

C.J. Leslie

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    After drafting Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks also went on to pick up undrafted free-agent C.J. Leslie, who many thought could be taken as early as the first round.

    Leslie could end up being an absolute steal for the Knicks, who have already officially signed him to the roster, meaning he'll be invited to training camp as well as summer league.

    It's unlikely that Leslie has guaranteed money coming his way already, but either way, he'll be looking to use the summer league to prove everyone wrong for letting him fall out of the draft.

    His drive was questioned in college—and that's the main reason teams passed up on him—but this could give him the chip on his shoulder he needs to step his game up.

    Leslie is a ridiculously athletic combo forward, and New York definitely needs an energetic player like that in the frontcourt. He can grab boards, block shots and play above the rim. He will undoubtedly show up on summer league highlight reels at some point.

Jerome Jordan

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    Back in 2011-12, Jerome Jordan was a member of the Knicks' regular-season roster, but it's clear he wasn't quite ready for the NBA.

    Jordan was eventually traded away as part of the deal that brought Marcus Camby back to New York, but the Knicks still had him in summer league last year.

    Now that he's had time to develop his game playing in the D-League and the Philippines, the Knicks will be hoping he's finally ready to be a contributor.

    As it stands, Tyson Chandler doesn't actually have a backup at center, but at 7'0", 253 pounds, Jordan has the build to be perfect for the role.  

    Jordan is still only 26, and New York is in desperate need of some young, durable bigs on the full roster before the season starts.

    The Knicks have had high hopes for Jordan for years now, but this could well be his last chance to stick in the NBA.

A.J. Matthews

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    Not many Division III players have ever made it to the NBA, but undrafted prospect A.J. Matthews will be looking to break the mold this season.

    Matthews was truly dominant at center for Farmingdale in 2012-13, averaging 22.4 points and 16.3 rebounds with 26 double-doubles.

    The Brooklyn native stands at 7'1" and was on plenty of teams' radars in the second round despite playing for a low-profile college.

    Many thought Matthews had Division I talent when he was in high school, but academic trouble kept him from making it that far. As far as basketball is concerned, though, it's clear he has talent.

    It's probably wishful thinking to envision Matthews actually playing a role on the Knicks this year, but summer league will give him a chance to prove himself against better talent than he was facing in college.

    If nothing else, Matthews could be playing for a spot on the Erie Bayhawks, where he will have the chance to develop and get to know the Knicks' system.

Jeremy Tyler

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    Since being drafted early in the second round of the 2011 draft, Jeremy Tyler has already had two stops in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks.

    Considering how few minutes he's played so far, it's hard to judge Tyler based on what he's done in the league to this point. Late in the 2011-12 season, however, he did start at center for Golden State, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.

    Tyler was a professional before being drafted, skipping college and his final year of high school to play for Maccabi Haifa in Israel and the Tokyo Apache in Japan.

    Due to his age and inexperience, Tyler struggled to get minutes abroad, but he did manage to average 16.9 points and 8.5 rebounds when playing in the D-League.

    Tyler's 7'5" wingspan makes him a very interesting physical prospect. Now that he's had the experience of playing professionally for the last four years, there's a good chance he could impress in summer league.