Toure' Murry has likely shown enough to earn a spot on the 2013-14 Knicks.
By now, we have a decent idea of what the New York Knicks' final roster will look like come opening night. With a bulk of the preseason in the books, several players have already made their case, while others have essentially played themselves off the club.
Heading into camp, the team's highest priority was to bring in a reliable backup center behind Tyson Chandler. After six preseason games, we've seen a fair amount of burn from Cole Aldrich, Ike Diogu and Josh Powell. But has it been enough to determine who has the best shot at snagging an MSG locker?
In the backcourt, a few Knicks—likely or otherwise—have put their talents on display, but could politics interfere with coach Mike Woodson making the right call?
Here are the winners and losers from preseason Week 3 for the Knicks.
Coming into the preseason, it seemed safe to suspect that Tim Hardaway Jr. wouldn't have much of a role on the 2013-14 Knicks. Woodson has tended to shun younger players over the course of his Knicks tenure, and Hardaway is, after all, a 21-year-old rookie.
But he is doing everything he can to earn a spot in the rotation. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, it's worked.
The Michigan alumnus had been scoring the ball with relative ease in the exhibition season, and Week 3's slate of games wasn't much different. During the team's Oct. 21 double-overtime matchup with the Toronto Raptors, he was the Knicks' third-leading scorer with 15, behind Carmelo Anthony and Metta World Peace.
He sank four shots—all from long distance—and connected on 3-of-4 free throws. He grabbed six boards and dished out three assists in his start.
Two nights later, he found himself back in his more likely reserve role, but he shone just as brightly.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, he scored more points than every Knick, except for Anthony. Hardaway put up 16 points, including three treys. He logged more minutes, 34, than any Knick other than Anthony as well.
In 33 minutes per game this preseason, he has averaged 14 points and shot 40.5 percent from three. His overall field-goal percentage isn't as high as it needs to be—just 37 percent—but there have been quite a few positives to take away from the rookie's first NBA action.
The Knicks called a last-minute audible by bringing Chris Douglas-Roberts into camp just one week before preseason action started, cutting freshly signed Justin Brownlee to make roster space.
As it turns out, the move didn't mean much at all.
Douglas-Roberts had a slim chance of making the 15-man roster from the onset, but he's done nothing to help himself in limited minutes this preseason.
In two games this past week, he logged just 12 total minutes—including one DNP—shooting just 1-of-3 from the field and turning the ball over once.
If you were unaware that Douglas-Roberts was on the Knicks' preseason roster, you're probably not alone. The 26-year-old has logged less minutes than every Knick besides Chris Smith, appearing in just two games. He has shot 2-of-7, missed both his three-point attempts, recorded three assists and committed two turnovers.
The team is basically set at the swingman position with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway locked into the rotation. Douglas-Roberts is likely headed for the D-League.
Aside from letting down every Knicks fan by chopping off his trademark flattop, Iman Shumpert has left New York encouraged with his preseason performance.
After enduring an elbow sprain on Oct. 17, he returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday, showing little signs of injury.
Against the Bucks, he scored 11 points and hauled in six rebounds. He dropped in two of his four attempts from beyond the arc, going 4-of-6 from the field. Watching his offensive arsenal develop his month has been especially promising for Knicks fans.
Over five exhibition games, he has shot an astounding 51 percent from the field—up from his 39.9 percent career mark—and an impressive 37.5 percent from distance. He's rounded out the stat sheet with five boards, two assists and 1.2 steals per contest, turning the ball over less than once.
The 23-year-old's defense is a given at this point. He's already one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. But if he can round out his game and become a legitimate threat with the ball in his hands—and he's shown glimpses of that in this preseason—the Knicks may have a special type of player.
Perhaps the most surprising disappointment of the Knicks preseason thus far is C.J. Leslie. New York signed the undrafted free agent to a partially guaranteed deal immediately after draft day, expecting his athleticism and scoring ability to translate directly to the pro game.
All summer long, he was someone whom Knicks fans had penciled into the 2013-14 rotation—possibly even contributing more than No. 24 overall pick Tim Hardaway. His 6'9" frame seemingly would have fit well at either forward spot Carmelo Anthony wasn't occupying. He averaged more than a block per game last season in his junior campaign at NC State and shot greater than 51 percent from the field.
But Woodson must not be a fan of what he's seen in camp, because Leslie has become an afterthought.
He's played in five games but averaged just seven minutes. He hasn't gotten a true shot at putting his skills—raw as they may be—on display.
His most extended look to date came against the Raptors in a double-overtime affair, when he logged 15 minutes. Leslie sank two of his four shots and even came away with a timely block on defense, but it apparently wasn't enough to woo Woodson. Leslie played just a single minute the following game in Green Bay. He didn't record any meaningful stats.
He has shot a respectable 5-of-9 over his five games. In his conveniently normalized 36 minutes, he has put up 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a pair of steals. The numbers seem fair, but the 22-year-old hasn't gotten enough burn to warrant a spot on the final roster.
The call will be up to Woodson, but all signs are pointing to Leslie heading to Erie, where the Knicks' D-League affiliate plays home games.
Despite turning heads in the summer league, the odds were against Toure' Murry at the beginning of training camp. He was vying for a spot on the depth chart already stacked with talent. New York already had three points guards and three shooting guards locked in.
But after five preseason games, it would be a travesty if Woodson left Murry off the final roster.
The Knicks are loaded with talent at the guard position, but outside of Iman Shumpert, there is no reliable defensive player in the backcourt. Raymond Felton can occasionally hold his own against quicker guards, as can Pablo Prigioni, despite his age. But athleticism has never been one of Beno Udrih's strong suits, while J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. are the two worst defensive guards on the Knicks.
Murry breaks that trend. He's a 6'6" combo guard with gangly arms and sharp athleticism. He has rivaled Shumpert's defensive intensity on ball-handlers through the preseason, which the Knicks desperately lack.
Per 82games.com, opposing point guards dropped more than 22 points on New York nightly last season while posting a 17.5 player efficiency rating. Without much defensive improvement in personnel for 2013-14, Murry would act to lessen those stats this year.
The 24-year-old's offense is promising, too. "Unpolished" is an accurate description, but Murry can drop it in from anywhere in the half court. He has shot a decent 22-of-50 this preseason or 44 percent. At just 3-of-15, his long-distance shooting needs work, but the Knicks have enough talent there to make up for a deficiency.
Against Toronto on Oct. 21, he shot a mediocre 5-of-13 and didn't play an impressive game on the whole. But everything he does on the court—his positioning on both ends, his ability to get to the rim, his vision—is valuable in the NBA today. He shot only 3-of-5 against the Bucks, but at this point, the numbers are almost irrelevant.
Murry plays like an NBA player needs to play, and he provides what the Knicks lack. He may not be ready to provide nightly rotation minutes, but after impressing last July and again in the preseason, he deserves a spot on the roster. The Knicks would be missing out if they let him slip away to another team.
Woodson recently told reporters—particularly the New York Daily News' Frank Isola—that Chris Smith may have a better shot at making the team because of his last name. The Knicks probably won't be adding two guards, and Smith has been the worst Knick by basically every preseason stat you can get your hands on.
As compared to the grand scheme of Knicks business, a Smith making the team over a deserving non-Smith wouldn't come off as shocking. But the 18 Knicks in camp with different last names would probably tell you that Murry should be the one to grab the spot.
It felt necessary to include all three members of the big-man invitee trio, since none of the three can grasp the one roster spot begging to be taken.
The Knicks scraped the bottom of the free-agent barrel in hopes of finding Chandler a suitable understudy, but for a second straight year, it seems as if he may be served more minutes than his 31-year-old body can handle.
Cole Aldrich seemed like an early favorite to crack the final squad, but Woodson hasn't even remotely given that impression through three weeks of games.
The two journeymen 30-year-olds contending for the same slot haven't done a ton to deserve it, either. Ike Diogu has shown an ability to score, but he has been too futile on the defensive end for Woodson's liking. Josh Powell has defended better than his competition but has shot a terrible 18.6 percent from the field.
Woodson has been giving each player a turn at being the go-to backup 5 for a game at a time, for the most part. On Oct. 21, Aldrich didn't play one of the 58 minutes recorded against the Raptors, while Diogu and Powell played 29 and 22, respectively.
Diogu showed a bit of promise on the stat sheet, with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Powell, on the other hand, didn't. He had just a single point to show for his efforts.
The following matchup against Milwaukee was Aldrich's turn at bat for the position, and without showing a whole lot, he put up his best performance of the preseason. In 14 minutes, the former lottery pick didn't score, but he grabbed eight boards and came away with a steal. Diogu played a single minute, and Powell didn't play at all.
There's only one preseason game to go. Jeremy Tyler will likely be sidelined through November, and 35-year-old Kenyon Martin hasn't participated in a single preseason game. The Knicks will need to give one of these guys a spot on the team, but none of them can honestly say he deserves it.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.