Breaking Down NY Knicks Camp Invitees' Chances of Making Final Roster
The New York Knicks have the majority of their roster settled ahead of preseason, but there are still some key battles to be fought for the final spots on the team in training camp.
As it stands, the Knicks have 12 fully guaranteed contracts on the books, leaving room for three more players to make the team.
New York has invited eight players, who'll compete for the last three spots, to camp on unguaranteed contracts. It's worth nothing that the Knicks only have two small forwards and one center on their current roster.
Let's go through each of the camp invitees and break down their chances of making the roster, focusing on their fit with the team and what they showed us in summer league or earlier stops in their respective careers.
All statistics used in this article are from Basketball-Reference.
The Knicks currently have no genuine centers on the roster behind Tyson Chandler, and even if they're planning to play Amar'e Stoudemire or Kenyon Martin there, they'll need at least one more big to make the team in training camp.
Former lottery pick Cole Aldrich could be the man for the job, as he covers two of the frontcourt's weaker areas—age and rebounding.
Aldrich is still only 24 and has plenty of time to get his career kickstarted if he has a good training camp.
The Knicks could definitely use his physical style of play, especially if he can repeat his form from last season when he averaged 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes in 45 games with the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.
Last season, Aldrich actually had a better defensive rebounding percentage than Chandler (the Knicks' leading rebounder), with an elite mark of 30.4 percent, albeit in limited action.
Offensively, Aldrich leaves a lot to be desired, but New York isn't looking for a major scorer here. As long as he plays efficiently (which he has, with a career field goal percentage of 54 percent), his defense and rebounding is all that really matters.
Jeremy Tyler—who we'll get to later—is more likely to make the team now that he has a solid summer league performance and a partially guaranteed contract under his belt, but since he'll be missing the start of the season with an injury, there could be room for Aldrich as well.
Despite his lack of height, Nigerian international Ike Diogu has a genuine chance to make the team as an extra big with his experience and physical tools coming in handy.
While Diogu is listed at only 6'8", his 7'4" wingspan means he's capable of playing effectively at either power forward or center without giving up much height in practice. He's also particularly strong, which actually gives him the physical advantage in most matchups.
Over the last two years, Diogu has played only two NBA games with the San Antonio Spurs, but with career per 36 minute averages of 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds (including 3.5 offensive boards), he has a history as an effective role player.
Like Aldrich, Diogu is a former lottery pick who hasn't yet lived up to expectations, but at the very least he's proven himself capable of performing in limited minutes off the bench.
And although we haven't seen much of him for the last two years, his dominant play in the 2013 FIBA Africa Championships showed he still has something left in the tank.
Although Aldrich and Tyler have more upside, Diogu's experience and physical ability could see him overtake them in the race for one of the last roster spots.
Former New Jersey Nets swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts was a last-minute addition to the training camp roster (replacing Justin Brownlee), but he could be a dark-horse candidate if the Knicks decide to add another guard to the team.
Although Toure' Murry was impressive in summer league and Chris Smith has family ties with the team, Douglas-Roberts has more experience—including two very solid years in New Jersey—and also has the height to play at small forward behind Carmelo Anthony and Metta World Peace.
With that said, the last two seasons have been tough for Douglas-Roberts, who's spent a lot of time in the D-League and struggled to make much of an impact with the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team in July.
CDR's style of play also doesn't seem to be a great fit in New York.
He's more of an offensive-minded player—which is curious considering his reliance on mid-range jumpers—and has a career defensive rating of 110 (worse than notoriously weak defenders Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire).
After showing us what he can do on the defensive end in summer league, Murry is a much better fit, but with plenty of guard depth already, New York is likely looking for someone capable of playing at small forward, and that could be enough to give Douglas-Roberts the edge.
The Knicks wasted no time in picking up free agent C.J. Leslie after the draft, and it's clear they see value in him as a long-term prospect. The question is whether or not he's worthy of a roster spot in the short term or if they should try and keep him in the D-League.
Leslie is still raw and has had his motivation questioned in the past—a big reason why he went undrafted—but his athleticism and versatility could make him a useful role player off the bench.
In summer league, we saw him utilized at shooting guard and both forward positions, and he even brought the ball up on offense every now and then.
New York's frontcourt could certainly use some more energy, but it doesn't seem like Leslie is NBA-ready just yet. He'll have all preseason to prove otherwise, but if not, keeping him in the D-League would be an ideal compromise.
Leslie is the type of player who could be called up midseason depending on the injury situation. After a year or two learning with the Erie BayHawks, he could develop into a quality bench player.
For now, Leslie is definitely still in the mix for the third string small forward role—especially with a partially guaranteed contract to his name—but the experience of his competition may keep him off the team for the time being.
Along with Jeremy Tyler, combo guard Toure' Murry was one of the Knicks' standout players in summer league, but he'll have a tough time cracking an already stacked guard rotation.
Murry was originally a shooting guard, who played at small forward at times in college and point guard in summer league, and that kind of flexibility could help the Knicks find room for him despite the depth they already have.
Perimeter defense is one of Murry's strong points, but it would be unfair to call him a defensive specialist.
He's also a very good passer and showed us this summer that he can also penetrate and collapse defenses (even if it was against lesser competition).
In the short-term, Murry could provide depth during J.R. Smith's injury and suspension, but to earn a spot on the roster, the likelihood is that he'll have to prove that he can play as a small forward in the NBA.
If Murry can do that, he should be able to make the roster, as he'll be able to function as the third string small forward while also adding depth at both guard positions. There's no one else in camp who can offer the same kind of flexibility and defensive intensity.
Josh Powell is another undersized big man competing for a spot on the team, but it's hard to picture him making the cut over Jeremy Tyler, Cole Aldrich and Ike Diogu.
Entering his tenth season, Powell has a relatively unimpressive career per 36 minutes numbers and doesn't stand out in any one category like his counterparts do.
If nothing else, Powell at least gives the Knicks someone tough who's never going to take a play off, but that can be said about all of the bigs they brought into camp.
Tyler's injury may give Powell an extra boost as he fights for a roster spot, but unless he does something special in camp, the Knicks would be better off going in another direction.
Though Chris Smith could potentially be an option for the Knicks in the D-League, it's hard to imagine him being in camp for any other reason than because he's J.R. Smith's brother.
That's fair enough considering that J.R. has taken a very reasonable deal to stay in New York for two straight years, but there's no way Smith is going to make the team based on merit alone.
Smith has appeared for the Knicks in summer league in 2012 and 2013, but in both instances, he failed to make an impact. To be fair to him, his defense was much improved this year, but even so, it wasn't good enough to give him the edge over Toure' Murry.
While it would be nice to see these two brothers get the chance to play with each other in the NBA, the Knicks can't afford to have Smith on the team. They need frontcourt depth more than anything else and don't have room for an unproven fourth string point guard.
Before his injury, Jeremy Tyler appeared to be a virtual lock for the back-up center role, but the Knicks will have to go in another direction to start the season.
Still, Tyler is likely to stick with the team as he recovers from injury, as he's arguably the most well-rounded player New York has brought into camp.
In summer league, Tyler was the team's leading scorer with 12.8 points per game (on 56 percent shooting), displaying a good mix of post moves and athleticism for a player who was previously considered too raw for the NBA.
Considering that he didn't play in college, it's not surprising that it's taken this long for Tyler to start to reach his potential, but it's clear he's worked on his game plenty during four years of professional ball in Israel, Japan and the NBA.
At 6'10", Tyler has just enough height to play at center and also adds the energy the team was missing at the position last year.
Essentially, he's a perfect fit for the Knicks, and while they should add another big while he recovers, it would be a mistake to give up on him simply because he'll 's going to miss the first few weeks of the season.
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