Who to Watch For On the Knicks Summer League Roster

The New York Knicks will play their first summer league matchup this Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs. Their roster was announced yesterday, and this group will be on the floor in the Vegas tournament from July 11-20.

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Many of the players on the roster will most likely serve as roster filler, with no real shot to make the New York Knicks roster. These are the players with real chances to make an appearance as a Knick this season.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo:

Antetokounmpo is making his final push for the Knicks roster this upcoming season, and he shouldn’t have much trouble making it. The team’s second round draft selection from last season actually played in Las Vegas for New York last summer as well in the hopes he could impress for a roster spot, but struggled mightily. He averaged just 3 PPG on 33% shooting and 1.8 RPG, leading to him playing a season for the Knicks D-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks. In 47 games for them, Antetokounmpo averaged 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. He also impressed with his defense, leading to him being named to the all D-League second team of defense.

The Knicks need wing players, and Antetokounmpo would fit perfectly. He can play either the shooting guard or small forward spots, and defend very well. If he plays well enough in Las Vegas, he should be a lock to make the team as a third or second stringer.

Cleanthony Early:

The Knicks first pick in the second round of last season’s draft, Cleanthony Early had a disappointing season to kick off his career. The former Wichita State Shocker played in just 39 games, battling knee injuries, scoring 5.4 PPG on 16.6 MPG, while shooting a disappointing 35.5%. Early did have his moments last season, but was overall highly inconsistent. He can score creatively, whether it is getting to the basket or hitting a jumper. He also is 6’8 with a large wingspan so he has potential to be a formidable defender.

While the Summer League doesn’t exactly boast the best competition, it will be an opportunity for Early to start building chemistry with new point guard Jerian Grant, and work on his skills a bit more. Early will absolutely be on the opening night roster next season though, so this will be more of a warm up for him and a chance to impress Head Coach Derek Fisher.

Langston Galloway:

The undrafted rookie sensation Langston Galloway had a surprising rise to fame that came completely out of left field. After playing half a season in Westchester, Galloway averaged 11.8 PPG in 45 contests for the Knicks. He demonstrated a clutch ability, and showed promise as a future strong defender.

The St. Joseph’s graduate made a name for himself in Las Vegas last season for the Knicks summer league squad, leading the team to a victory over Charlotte. He scored 17 points on 7-10 shooting, and showed intensity on the defensive end. He should be back on New York’s roster in October, and be the backup shooting guard to Arron Afflalo, while also seeing time as the third string point guard on the roster.

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Jerian Grant:

The 22-year-old rookie out of Notre Dame should benefit tremendously from playing in Las Vegas. Grant will need to run the offense, so learning the ins and outs of the triangle offense here in Las Vegas will give him a head start before training camp starts.

While playing for Notre Dame, Grant was known for his intelligent passing skills, finding the open man and sending inch perfect passes to his teammates. If he can master the triangle offense, he could very well be a perfect fit. He relies on his high basketball IQ and slick passing skills, and with the triangle being reliant on quick passing and organized basketball, Grant should fit in well.

This time will also allow him to gain on the court chemistry with potential cornerstone of the Knicks, Kristaps Porzingis. The two of them could be on the court together often, so developing a relationship now would be beneficial.

Alex Kirk:

While Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas were the players the Knicks kept from the Iman Shumpert/J.R. Smith trade, Alex Kirk was the third piece, but he was subsequently waived and not signed to a 10-day contract.

Kirk was acquired from the Cavaliers, but even in Cleveland he barely played. He appeared in just five games, with a stat line of four points, one rebound, and one assist. He did play four seasons with the New Mexico Lobos, and was fairly good. He was named to the Second Team All-Mountain West Conference, and made the all defensive team for the conference twice. He is 6’11 and weights 252 pounds, so he has potential to be a solid defender in the league.

The Knicks could still use one more big man to fill out the roster, and Kirk could be a candidate for this spot.

Louis Labeyrie:

The Knicks drafted the Frenchmen Louis Labyrie with the 57th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, surprising many. He has barely played in his native French League, tallying just 5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game in 16.4 minutes per game. He still does have upside as a bench player, though, but he first should probably look to gain weight. He is 6’10 and 220 pounds, so he could get pushed around quite easily in the low post.

What Labeyrie does possess is potential. He is a very good ball handler for a center, and has a high motor. He also received praise from fellow countrymen, Rudy Gobert. While Labeyrie probably will not be making the jump to the NBA this season, this should be a start for him to learn the triangle and get a taste of some NBA competition.

Ricky Ledo:

Ledo was signed to a two-year deal late last season, and this second year is completely unguaranteed. This means that the former second round draft selection can be cut and none of his money would have to be paid out by the Knicks. He still is under contract for now, and a lot of whether or not he stays will ride on his summer league and training camp performances.

Ledo has played in just 28 games in the NBA, 16 with the Mavericks and 12 as a Knick. He has been an incredibly streaky shooter throughout his career, with a 33.6% FG and 37.1% 3PT. He has a shot to stick around because he was viewed very highly as a rookie, and still will be entering just his third season. The Knicks also need a third string shooting guard, and Ledo could be a cheap option to round out that unit.

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Kristaps Porzingis:

The main attraction, the fourth overall draft selection Kristaps Porzingis is coming in with huge expectations. The Latvian big man has been battling hip tightness over the past few weeks, but he says he will be good to go for the team’s summer league circuit. Whether or not he will be 100% is unclear, but even if he isn’t it could at least be a good chance for him to begin adjusting to the triangle offense and the NBA.

Porzingis should log a lot of minutes barring any health issues, so we should get a good look at his skillset fairly quickly. In the Spanish League he demonstrated an ability to do it all. He can shoot the ball, finish at the rim, and defend well. He has sky high expectations, so hopefully he can make a good first impression.

Travis Wear

Last but not least, Travis Wear is technically the veteran of this team. He played in 51 games for the Knicks last season, more than anyone else on this Summer League roster. He averaged just 3.9 PPG in 13.2 MPG, but he did show some potential to be a three-and-D type player in the NBA. Derek Fisher is a big fan of his based on comments throughout the season, so he probably will be fighting for a roster spot here.

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