Sample size is always important to consider, but through the first week of the 2013 preseason, some New York Knicks have already gotten off to an inauspicious beginning.
The team has at least one roster slot available to training camp hopefuls and is desperate for depth behind Tyson Chandler at the center position. A slew of guards also have a chance at cracking the final roster as well.
Conversely, several Knicks have opened eyes with impressive all-around play, including Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. But others, who will soak up the unfortunate spotlight ahead, just haven't done enough to warrant serious consideration for the final roster.
Chris Smith, PG
It's possible that Chris Smith—as Marc Berman of the New York Post speculated months ago—was brought in as an act of good faith to the Smith family. His older brother J.R. has a history of doing right by the organization and helping out with team-friendly contracts, so the story could possibly have legs.
There isn't a whole lot in Chris Smith's basketball past that hints he may be NBA material, but the organization seems to be playing along like he's got a real shot. So we'll do the same.
Coach Mike Woodson ran Smith out for five minutes towards the tail end of the preseason opener against the Boston Celtics. Through his first four minutes, he sported a plus/minus of minus-24.
His only attempt from the field—a three-pointer—failed. He pulled a rebound and recorded a foul in the Oct. 9 matchup. Woodson called upon Toure' Murry instead of Smith in the closing minutes against the Toronto Raptors in Smith's second game, leaving Smith with the dreaded preseason DNP-CD.
The way the roster is expected to shake out—with one or possibly a pair of roster spaces available if the team cuts injured center Jeremy Tyler—presuming that more than one guard will make the final cut would be unwise.
Smith found his way into the team's second bout with Boston on Oct. 12. He went 1-of-3 from the field in eight minutes and grabbed two rebounds. His plus/minus was minus-14.
Based off Smith's lack of preseason burn and lack of results when he has been out there, there's very little chance the 26-year-old plays in the NBA any time soon, let alone on the Knicks' 15-man roster.
Cole Aldrich, C
Cole Aldrich is one of the three center-type invites the team brought in as potential relief for Tyson Chandler. The Knicks' lack of depth throughout last year was a direct cause of Chandler's physical breakdown near the end of the regular season. Besides 35-year-old Kenyon Martin, the team would be wise to add another big body to the depth chart. And you can't say they're not trying.
But Aldrich, to this point, hasn't done anything to stand out from the competition—which consists of Josh Powell and Ike Diogu, both 30.
That's not to say his competition has been all that fierce—it hasn't. Neither Powell or Diogu haven't achieved a whole lot this preseason, but they've both received more time from Woodson. Aldrich has logged an average of just over 16 minutes in three games, while Powell has averaged 17 including a start. Diogu logged 32 minutes against the Celts on Oct. 12.
Aldrich has shot just 2-of-7, averaged four boards and looked out of sorts on defense. He's combined for one block and two steals over the trio of matchups. Thus far, Powell and Diogu have both gotten extended in-game looks. Aldrich hasn't.
As the heart of the preseason schedule approaches over the next two weeks, Knicks starters can expect more game-long rests. This opens up more chances for Aldrich to get a better look from the staff, and possibly even a start or two.
But where we stand now, Aldrich has been overmatched on both ends of the court, which is discouraging considering the 24-year-old presents the most ideal size of all camp invites at 6'11".
Andrea Bargnani, PF
As is stands now, Andrea Bargnani is set to start at power forward for the Knicks. This benefits the team, according to his supporters, in the following ways: He can stretch the floor for Carmelo Anthony to work inside, he can penetrate off the dribble, and he can knock down the three-ball.
As a Knick, it's important for Bargnani to realize he'll be responsible for far less than he was in Toronto. Now, the 7-footer is merely an accessory—something for the offense to fall back on. Because of this, he can focus solely on what it takes to be the successful secondary piece New York needs.
This preseason, while on the court with Anthony and other likely starters, Bargnani has failed to do this.
Countless times in just two games with 'Melo, Tyson Chandler and the like suited up, the ball has found Bargnani for an open three attempt, only for Il Mago to pump fake, put the ball on the floor, and loft a shot from the mid-range. Below, courtesy of NBA.com, are Bargnani's 2012-13 percentages from that area:
Mid-range jumpers, let alone contested ones like the ones Bargnani has been attempting, are the least efficient shots a player can take.
Being able to put the ball on the floor and draw fouls is certainly a coveted skill, but Bargnani needs to be wary of turning down the highest-percentage look of a possession (also known as "Pablo Prigioni Syndrome"), which at times can be the open three.
It's fairly simple: Bargnani just needs to get used to doing less. The sudden change of roles won't be easy to adjust to, and the Italian scorer is proving that early on. But if he can work out the kinks now, in time for opening night, he has a chance to be one of the more effective role players in the East.
It's also worth noting that Bargnani's three-ball, much like last season, hasn't been finding the bottom of the net very often. He's shot just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc as a Knick, and sank just 31 percent of threes last season with Toronto.
Hopefully for New York, a healthy and motivated Bargnani can improve on those numbers in time for the regular season.
If he can shore up the long-ball and trim the fat from his offensive game, Bargnani could have what it takes to be the secondary scorer New York needs.