From the moment he was drafted, there have been questions surrounding New York Knicks rookie Andy Rautins.
Having not been on many experts’ NBA draft boards, there were even doubts that Rautins had an NBA future ahead of him at all. An underwhelming summer league session, in which he shot 4-for-14 from behind the arc, did not help his cause.
Nevertheless, the (usually) sharp-shooting marksman from Syracuse entered Knicks training camp last week with a positive attitude and a seemingly clean slate.
The Knicks obviously have faith in the local product, after making him and Stanford wing Landry Fields arguably the most talked about (and surprising) draft selections of all.
Despite not performing up to expectations in summer league, Rautins signed his contract with the team shortly after. With 16 players on the roster (the only position battle appears to be between Patrick Ewing Jr. and Shawne Williams, two training camp invitees), he appears a lock to make the cut.
Rautins has been impressive running the break during training camp. Although normally paired up with second-year point guard Toney Douglas on the practice squad, it is Rautins who often handles the ball.
Showing great first instincts, Rautins can be seen darting passes around the horn to his open teammates if not pulling up for a shot from long range.
Although he’s known for his three-point shooting, Rautins made it clear he’s a multi-faceted player. “Many people know about my ability to shoot the basketball," said Rautins. "I think what’s going to separate me from other guys, though, is my ability to push the ball in transition. I’m able to spread the ball on offense. I can do a lot more than people think I can.”
He certainly knows what it will take to set him apart. On the Knicks (and the NBA in general), a fine shooting touch is becoming a dime a dozen. While honing that skill never hurts, it will be his playmaking abilities and defense that help Rautins break out.
At 6'5", Rautins would stand tall as a point guard, be able to shoot over smaller guards, and use his strong frame to harass them on defense. Often noted as a "combo-guard," Rautins took over full point-guard duty last season as a senior. Assuming the role of team leader, he finished with averages of 12 points, nearly five assists, and two steals.
In fact, he feels as though his time at Syracuse will make him more comfortable with the Knicks.
“Definitely,” Rautins said with enthusiasm. “D’Antoni’s the type of guy that likes to run up and down the court. That’s the type of system we had at Syracuse, so I’m pretty familiar with it. For a guy like me, that likes to shoot the ball and can do so with range, I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
Citing Raymond Felton and Roger Mason, Jr. as early positives influences, Rautins has been taking notes and working hard throughout camp.
The New York media has been taking notice, too. While a term like “bust” was being used to describe Rautins following the draft, he is now being recognized as “crisp” and “strong” during workouts.
Nevertheless, while some may still count him out, Rautins doesn’t appear to be wavering. He already talks about still being a part of the Knicks in the future.
In regards to whether or not he can carry over Syracuse’s winning mentality to the Knicks, Rautins said, “I’m probably going to take a back seat to the vets right now, but eventually hope to assume that leadership position and bring my little leadership intangibles to the table. You know, winning rubs off on people. Hopefully that will be the case.”
It’s certainly a positive that he realizes the importance of such intangibles. Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni brought Rautins and Fields in clearly because they fit the personnel build for this new Knicks squad, not because of any existing (or non-existing) star potential.
While it may take some time for this team to gel on the court, many Knicks, including Rautins, spoke glowingly about the team’s rapport at media day last Friday.
“We have a great group of guys. I think the chemistry’s already where it needs to be.”
Only time will tell how strong that chemistry proves to be as the Knicks will strive to be a top-eight team in the Eastern Conference this season. The team will travel to Milan, Italy to open up its preseason on October 3rd.
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