The New York Knicks have several players fighting to make the rotation and at least eight players vying for as many as three spots on the roster. Three such players have stood out during the first two weeks of training camp.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
New York's first-round pick in the 2013 draft, Tim Hardaway Jr., was pegged near the bottom of the depth chart on a team replete with veteran point guards and wing men, but the University of Michigan product has earned meaningful minutes with his impressive two-way play in the Knicks' first three preseason games.
Coach Woodson praised the rookie after the Knicks' 103-102 victory over the Boston Celtics on October 9th. “He’s going to be in the rotation. He’ll play some,’’ said Woodson, via Marc Berman of nypost.com.
Hardaway scored 16 points in that game on 6-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-5 from downtown in 25 minutes of play. He knocked down a 20-foot jumper along the baseline with eight seconds left to win the game.
The rookie followed that up 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-8 from behind the arc in 30 minutes against the Toronto Raptors on October 11th. Then he struggled the following night against the Boston Celtics, shooting 3-for-16 for nine points.
Those ups and downs are to be expected by a first-year player.
Preseason performances should be taken with a grain of salt. Players are not at the top of their game as they work their way back into shape and are often acclimating themselves to new teammates and/or a new system. Some of Hardaway's success came against guys who will not make the roster or will be glued to the end of the bench.
However, through his shot-making, commitment to defense and poise under pressure, Hardaway demonstrated that he is ready to contribute immediately.
At 6’6’’ he has good size for his position and his ability to run the floor, as seen in the clip below from the Raptors game, is particularly valuable for a team full of aging veterans.
The Knicks have plenty of depth in the backcourt and on the wing, and according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, Mike Woodson suggested early in training camp that he would probably keep at least one big man from the group of roster invitees without guaranteed contracts.
Power forwards Josh Powell, Ike Diogu, Jeremy Tyler (whose contract is partially guaranteed) and center Cole Aldrich are in the mix.
Tyler appeared to have the inside track on a roster spot after playing inspired basketball for the Knicks summer league team, but surgery on his right foot in September hurt his chances of making the team. Tyler will likely miss all of training camp and is not expected back until November.
Powell has done nothing to impress the coaching staff in limited preseason action.
Aldrich, the only true center of bunch, grabbed five boards in 17 minutes and defended the pick-and-roll well in the Knicks' first preseason game. According to Alan Hahn of MSG Network, the former lottery pick also impressed coaches in practice.
The 6’11’’ center was the first big man off the bench for the Knicks against the Raptors, but was pulled after just five minutes for his poor defensive footwork in the paint. Since then, the praise has turned to criticism. According to Marc Berman of nypost.com, Woodson questioned Aldrich's toughness.
Al Innazzone of newsday.com reported that Knicks general manager Steve Mills indicated that New York is looking for a backup center.
Diogu is generally considered an undersized power forward at 6'8'', though he is very physical and has a 7'3'' wingspan.
After receiving minimal playing time in the Knicks' first two preseason games, he staked his claim for a roster spot with 21 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes against the Celtics on October 12th.
Diogu has bounced around the league since the Golden State Warriors selected him with the ninth pick in the 2005 draft. He played in Puerto Rico last season.
The power forward has tremendous lower-body strength, which he uses to establish and maintain position in the post on both ends of the floor, but his lack of foot speed has made him a liability on defense. That could be his undoing in the eyes of Mike Woodson.
Yet, if Diogu continues to perform the way he did against the Celtics, he should find himself on the Knicks roster when the season begins.
Toure' Murry had a solid rookie season in the Developmental League, averaging 9.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, and 1.8 spg over 51 games for the Red Valley Vipers, after going undrafted out of Wichita State University in 2012. The combo guard impressed Knicks coaches during the summer in Las Vegas with his ball pressure and nifty passes like the one below.
Murry accepted an invitation to the Knicks' training camp despite an uphill battle to make the team due to a logjam at both guard spots.
The former Shocker did not see any action in the first preseason game and scored just two points in nine minutes against the Raptors.
He finally got an extended run the following night against the Celtics and made the most of it, scoring 16 points in 31 minutes on 8-for-21 shooting. He also chipped in four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Yet, it is Murry's defense that provides him with the best chance of making the team. At 6'5'' he possesses the size and quickness to defend both guard positions.
Opposing point guards shredded the Knicks defense on pick-and-rolls last season, and the addition of veteran point guard Beno Udrih will not improve the situation. Murry is quicker laterally than Udrih, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, and Woodson could use him in short spurts to stifle the opponent's attack.