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[Pelton] New York Knicks player profiles for Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and more

2016.09.12 21:07 Ananant [Pelton] New York Knicks player profiles for Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and more

The season can't start soon enough, but to bide our time, here's a thorough overview of our roster as we move into the preseason, courtesy ESPN Insider:

New York Knicks player profiles for Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and more - NBA

by Kevin Pelton on 2016-09-11 01:09:00 UTC
How will Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and the New York Knicks do in 2016-17?
Here are our player scouting reports and analysis.

Projected starters

Derrick Rose
Position: Guard
Experience: 7 years
Age: 27
Scouting report
+ Injury-plagued former MVP still trying to play like a star
+ Poor outside shooter who struggled to finish after eye injury
+ Defensive effort is inconsistent at best
Analysis
From the highs of being drafted No. 1 overall by his hometown team and winning MVP to the lows of a series of injuries and criticism over his slow return, Rose saw it all during seven seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Now he gets a fresh start in the Big Apple after the Knicks gambled on Rose to fill their void at point guard.
In 2015-16, Rose played the most games (66) since he won MVP in 2010-11, but injuries still loomed over his campaign. Rose suffered an orbital fracture early in training camp and experienced vision problems thereafter, getting off to a slow start. After a 3-of-15 effort on Dec. 2, Rose's 2-point percentage bottomed out at 37.0 percent. The rest of the season, he shot 46.9 percent on 2s, more in line with his 2014-15 mark (46.5 percent).
Of course, even with normal sight Rose wasn't efficient enough as a scorer to justify the large role he continued to play in the Chicago offense. His usage rate dipped a bit last season to 27.3 percent, but even if you take out the month of November, Rose's .496 true shooting percentage (again in line with his .493 mark from the previous season) was better than only Kobe Bryant (.469) among players who used more than 26 percent of their team's plays.
At times, Rose can still rediscover the athleticism that made him so hard to contain in his early years, particularly when rested. As in 2014-15, Rose was far less efficient in the second game of back-to-backs (.458 true shooting percentage, per Basketball-Reference.com) than with one day rest (.488) and more efficient still with two days of rest (.512). Alas, the trend didn't hold for more than two days of rest, when Rose's true shooting percentage dipped back to .460.
Too often, when Rose is unable to get into the paint he settles for low-percentage perimeter shots off the dribble. He wisely cut his attempts from 3-point range after shooting worse than 30 percent from beyond the arc for a second consecutive season, but turned too many of those attempts into long 2-pointers that are less efficient considering they're not worth as many points.
Then there's defense. A plus at the position in his prime, Rose no longer can compensate with athleticism when he takes plays off. Without the protection of Tom Thibodeau's defensive scheme, Rose was exposed last season, ranking among the league's bottom five point guards defensively in ESPN's real plus-minus.
Courtney Lee
Position: Guard
Experience: 8 years
Age: 30
Scouting report
+ Experienced 3-and-D role player at shooting guard
+ Good 3-point shooter who could stand to take more
+ Solid individual defender who holds up against bigger opponents
Analysis
Lee is the needed role player at shooting guard Phil Jackson thought he was getting in Arron Afflalo last season, but Lee came at a high price. After helping the Charlotte Hornets finish strong after a midseason trade from the Memphis Grizzlies, Lee cashed in on a four-year, $48 million deal that will pay him through age 34 -- by which point he's likely to be in decline.
For now, Lee is an ideal offensive fit on a team with multiple shot creators. While he can occasionally create his own shot, Lee doesn't require the ball in his hands. You'll instead find him spotting up. Lee is a career 38.4 percent 3-point shooter who has been reasonably accurate from the wings (36.7 percent) and great in the corners (40.7 percent career, per Basketball-Reference.com). If anything, Lee should probably take more 3s and cut out the nearly quarter of his shot attempts he has used on long 2-point jumpers, something New York head coach Jeff Hornacek might encourage.
Given their other perimeter starters, the Knicks will need Lee to take the most difficult matchup. At 6-foot-5, Lee is a little too small to defend some bigger wings, but he's up for the challenge and does well against physical players. Lee's addition was a big reason the Hornets improved from 12th in the NBA in defensive rating before the All-Star break to seventh after the break.
Carmelo Anthony
Position: Forward
Experience: 13 years
Age: 32
Scouting report
+ Nine-time All-Star who's a premier one-on-one scorer
+ Now makes his living in the midrange
+ Poor defender who'd rather switch than fight through screens
Analysis
Anthony shook off any concerns about the patellar debridement that ended his 2014-15 season by playing at more or less the same level last season, earning his ninth All-Star appearance. After establishing himself as the greatest U.S. Olympic men's basketball player ever by winning a third gold medal, Anthony returns to a team built around his timeline. However, Anthony will have to adapt to playing with Derrick Rose, his highest-usage teammate since he played with Allen Iverson with the Denver Nuggets.
In his 30s, Anthony has become the master of the midrange. Per NBA.com/Stats, he led the league by making 3.7 2-pointers from outside the paint per game, which he shot at a healthy 44.5 percent clip. Anthony likes to isolate in the midpost and use the threat of the drive to set up an uncontested jumper. Because he gets to the basket less frequently than in his athletic prime, Anthony's free throw attempts have declined, and he shot a career-low 5.6 per game last year. But Anthony is still good at drawing and selling contact. During 2012-13 and 2013-14, his best offensive seasons, Anthony was able to boost his efficiency with high-percentage 3-point shooting. That hasn't been the case since then, with Anthony hitting nearly 34 percent of his 3s.
Defense has always been an issue for Anthony, and his diminishing athleticism only figures to exacerbate the issue. He might be forced to defend higher-scoring small forwards who are too big for Lee. The ultimate solution would be moving Anthony to power forward, since he's an excellent rebounder and it would facilitate his desire to switch off-ball screens. Alas, New York's offseason moves don't suggest that's in the immediate plans.
Kristaps Porzingis
Position: Forward
Experience: 1 year
Age: 21
Scouting report
+ Uber-talented 21-year-old who emerged as key contributor way ahead of schedule
+ Excellent shooter for his size who should improve beyond the arc in year two
+ Held his own against stronger opponents and showed potential as rim protector
Analysis
Even the biggest Porzingis fans acknowledged entering the 2015 draft that he'd probably be a multi-year project. Not so: Porzingis started right away at age 20 and was the Knicks' second-best player as a rookie. He probably would have won rookie of the year most seasons but settled for a second-place finish behind Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Early on, Porzingis turned heads with a stunning series of putback dunks, which was odd because his offensive rebounding was poor for a power forward overall. That's to be expected since Porzingis spends much of his time on the perimeter. He shot just 34.3 percent from 3-point range as a rookie, but was much more accurate (45.4 percent) on 2-point jumpers beyond 16 feet, according to Basketball-Reference.com. International players tend to struggle with the longer NBA 3-point line in their first seasons in the league before improving in Year 2, so expect Porzingis to at least get to league average beyond the arc. His next step offensively will be improving his ability to post up smaller defenders teams put on him to counter the shooting. Per Synergy Sports tracking on NBA.com/Stats, Porzingis shot just 40.5 percent on post-ups, putting him in the bottom 10 among players with at least 100 attempts.
At 7-foot-3, Porzingis proved remarkably adept at defending smaller opponents on the perimeter. His huge wingspan allows Porzingis to play a step off and still contest shots, and his nimble feet allow him to cover ground quickly against the pick-and-roll. Naturally, Porzingis' size also makes him an effective shot blocker, and he swatted more shots than the average center. Ultimately, Porzingis' future lies in the middle, where he played about a quarter of his minutes last season according to Nylon Calculus tracking. Porzingis will have to add strength to defend bigger players down low, and New York seems in no hurry to move him there full-time.
Joakim Noah
Position: Center
Experience: 9 years
Age: 31
Scouting report
+ Skilled center whose scoring has deteriorated in wake of injuries
+ No longer has explosiveness to finish around the basket
+ Remains an excellent pick-and-roll defender and strong rebounder
Analysis
After trading starting center Robin Lopez to the Bulls as part of the package for Rose, the Knicks had a huge hole in the middle. They filled it with another ex-Chicago player, signing Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal that will pay him through age 35. With the deal, New York is betting big on Noah overcoming the dislocated shoulder that required season-ending surgery in January and the other maladies that have limited his explosiveness.
Before his season ended, Noah was shooting just 38.3 percent, down from 44.5 percent in 2014-15 and 47.5 percent when he was an All-NBA First Team pick in 2013-14. Never a great finisher at his best, Noah made just 42.5 percent of his attempts inside three feet, the worst mark among players with at least 100 attempts, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He also stopped shooting from the high post, making just two shots all season from beyond 15 feet -- down from 59 in 2013-14. Without the threat of him making shots, defenders can sag off Noah, closing off passing lanes and taking away his ability to find teammates.
Despite his offensive decline, Noah was still valuable to the Bulls for his defensive presence. Chicago's defense collapsed after Noah's injury and allowed 5.5 more points per 100 possessions with him on the bench, per NBA.com/Stats. Noah still covers ground well and is as savvy defending the pick-and-roll as any starting center. He's less effective protecting the rim -- opponents shot 52.4 percent inside five feet against him, according to SportVU tracking data on NBA.com/Stats -- and the Knicks might actually want to use Porzingis as their primary help defender when matchups allow. But Noah was a fine defensive rebounder in 2015-16 and can help Porzingis in that regard.

Reserves

Brandon Jennings
Position: Guard
Experience: 7 years
Age: 26
Scouting report
+ Longtime starter who shot poorly in return from ruptured Achilles
+ Excellent at creating low-percentage shot attempts; capable passer
+ Showed surprisingly little athletic decline after injury
Analysis
Having ruptured his Achilles in January 2015, Jennings returned nearly a year later, having lost his starting job with the Detroit Pistons to newcomer Reggie Jackson. Jackson's presence made Jennings expendable in a midseason trade with the Orlando Magic. After finishing out the season in Orlando, Jennings signed a one-year, $5 million deal with New York in the hopes of parlaying a big season in the Big Apple into a 2017 payday.
Given Rose's fragility, Jennings should have an opportunity to start at some point. Whether he makes good on it depends on whether his shooting bounces back. Never a high-percentage shooter, Jennings made just 32.9 percent of his 3-point attempts last season while taking more 3s than 2s. Jennings tends to shoot a lot of 3s off the dribble, so his percentage will never be great, but getting back to his career 35 percent mark would help. Because he's a low-percentage finisher, Jennings tends to be better at creating shots than hitting them, so he'd be most valuable to the Knicks if Anthony and Rose are both on the bench at the same time and he can be a focal point.
Coming back from the injury, Jennings looked as athletic as before. That would almost certainly make him New York's best defensive option at point guard despite his being a slight 6-foot-1.
Lance Thomas
Position: Forward
Experience: 5 years
Age: 28
Scouting report
+ Combo forward who contributes primarily at defensive end
+ Unexpectedly emerged as a 40 percent 3-point shooter last season
+ By far the Knicks' best defender against big wings
Analysis
An offensive liability over his first four NBA seasons, Thomas added a 3-point element almost overnight, making 44 triples in 59 games at a 40.4 percent clip last season. That made him an indispensable role player for New York, which re-signed him to a four-year deal worth more than $27 million as an unrestricted free agent.
Thomas was fourth on the Knicks in minutes played per game in the fourth quarter, reflecting his tendency to finish games as part of small lineups with Porzingis at center. Such combos allowed Thomas to guard the opposition's best forward, freeing Anthony from that responsibility. At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, Thomas has ideal size to defend bigger wings or stretch 4s, and his ability to get low in his stance makes him effective individually on the wing. Alas, Thomas' focus on his assignment means he's almost a complete non-contributor on the defensive glass. He grabbed just 8.0 percent of defensive rebounds, worse than the average point guard.
Always a capable defender, Thomas was able to justify more minutes by virtue of his offensive transformation. He'd attempted just 23 3-pointers in his first four NBA seasons, making seven of them. Inevitably, some regression beyond the arc should be expected, although my SCHOENE projection system pegs Thomas to make a healthy 38.5 percent of his 3s in 2016-17.
Kyle O'Quinn
Position: Center
Experience: 4 years
Age: 26
Scouting report
+ Skilled backup center whose high-post game fits well in triangle
+ Has range to about 20 feet on jumpers and is a good passer for center
+ Fine shot blocker and rebounder who tends to be prone to fouls
Analysis
The emergence of Porzingis as a center option hurt O'Quinn, who also had to battle now-departed Kevin Seraphin for playing time off the bench. Despite offering effective play, O'Quinn averaged just 11.8 minutes per game. He has a chance to see more action this season, particularly given the likelihood of Noah missing time.
A good passer for a center (he averaged 3.4 assists per 36 minutes, better than Noah did in his first five NBA seasons), O'Quinn is also an accurate enough midrange shooter to keep defenses honest (43.9 percent on 2-point attempts beyond 16 feet, per Basketball-Reference.com). All of that made him a good fit at the elbow in the triangle, though O'Quinn can certainly be effective in a more conventional offense, too. Given the time he spends on the perimeter, O'Quinn's league-average offensive rebounding for a center is actually quite impressive, and he generally finished well around the basket before declining last season.
The burly O'Quinn blocks shots well but can be too aggressive in trying to contest. He has a bad habit of going for shot fakes and averaged 5.0 fouls per 36 minutes, which would be an issue were he to start in place of Noah. O'Quinn moves well for a center and covers a lot of ground. He's also a good defensive rebounder.
Sasha Vujacic
Position: Guard
Experience: 9 years
Age: 32
Scouting report
+ Longtime Phil Jackson player who offers triangle experience
+ After slow start, shot reasonably well on frequent 3-point attempts
+ Tries to do too much defensively to his detriment
Analysis
Accurately described by comedian Josh Gondelman as looking "like the protagonist in a Wes Anderson movie about basketball," Vujacic returned to the NBA after playing just two games in the previous four seasons. Having played five-plus seasons for Knicks president Phil Jackson when he coached the L.A. Lakers, Vujacic brings familiarity with the triangle offense and his typically aggressive style of play.
With Afflalo sidelined, Vujacic began the season as New York's starting shooting guard -- but not, as the old joke goes, making guard. At one point after falling out of the rotation, he missed 14 consecutive shots over nearly a month's time. Vujacic ultimately found his range after getting regular minutes under interim head coach Kurt Rambis and made 36.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. His 40.3 percent shooting inside the arc was a much bigger concern. Vuajcic has never finished well and took 28.5 percent of his shots in the dead zone between 16 feet and the 3-point line, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Even in his 30s, Vujacic continues to play an ultra-aggressive brand of defense that frustrates both opponents and at times his own fans. He'll get up into opponents far from the basket, running the risk of getting blown by off the dribble. But Vujacic's strong defensive rebounding was a plus for the Knicks' second unit.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas
Position: Forward
Experience: Rookie
Age: 26
Scouting report
+ Lithuanian combo forward coming to NBA at age 27 (when season starts)
+ Not a good 3-point shooter from shorter FIBA line
+ May struggle to find good defensive matchups
Analysis
A veteran European star who is part of the Lithuanian national team, Kuzminskas will make the leap to the NBA this season after signing a two-year, $5.8 million deal for New York's midlevel exception. Kuzminskas, who will turn 27 during preseason, is expected to help provide forward depth right away.
The 6-foot-9 Kuzminskas played small forward in Spain for Unicaja Malaga, where his size allowed him to effectively post up smaller defenders. Alas, Kuzminskas might not supply enough shooting to play the 3 in the NBA. He was a below-average 3-point shooter from the shorter FIBA line and may struggle to hit more than a third of his 3s in the NBA. One solution for the Knicks is to pair him with Lance Thomas in a frontcourt combination in which the two players can interchange forward positions depending on matchups.
Playing Kuzminskas with Thomas will also help hide him defensively, where he might not have a position. Kuzminskas isn't strong enough to deal with many NBA power forwards and figures to be a below-average rebounder in that role. Also, Kuzminskas doesn't figure to have the requisite lateral mobility to deal with NBA-caliber athletes on the wing. So he may prove a defensive liability.
Justin Holiday
Position: Guard
Experience: 3 years
Age: 27
Scouting report
+ Aspiring 3-and-D specialist who made progress as a shooter last season
+ Can provide secondary ballhandling but mostly plays off the ball
+ Lanky, long-armed defender who commits to defending one-on-one
Analysis
"Hawks University" decided to pull Holiday's scholarship midway through his first season in Atlanta, as the Hawks dealt him to the Bulls with a second-round pick for veteran guard Kirk Hinrich. Because of injuries, Holiday averaged 18.9 minutes a game in Chicago after the deadline, shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range. He'll battle for reserve minutes in New York after being thrown in the Rose deal.
Holiday hasn't become a rotation player because he hasn't been a consistent outside shooter. He shot 32.1 percent from 3-point range during 2014-15 with the Golden State Warriors and made just 10 of his 45 attempts in Atlanta before catching fire over a small sample (60 shots) with the Bulls. If Holiday can merely get to 35 percent from 3, his ballhandling skills are good enough that he's a playable reserve.
Holiday is playing primarily for his defense anyway. He's 6-foot-6 with a wingspan measured at 7 feet, per DraftExpress. Because of his thin frame, Holiday isn't ideal against combo forwards, but he can handle most wings and would pair well defensively with the bigger Lance Thomas. At 27, Holiday doesn't have much upside, but he can provide low-cost minutes for a team in need of depth.
Willy Hernangomez
Position: Center
Experience: Rookie
Age: 22
Scouting report
+ Young Spanish big man who finishes well around the basket
+ Has good hands and is effective in the pick-and-roll game
+ Poor shot blocker who always figures to be limited defensively
Analysis
The Knicks added Hernangomez, who played with Porzingis in Sevilla, with a pick they purchased in the second round of the 2015 draft. After winning an ACB championship with Real Madrid and a bronze medal with Spain in the Olympics, the 22-year-old Hernangomez is headed to New York on a four-year contract worth almost $6 million.
Playing a small role for Real Madrid, Hernangomez made 66 percent of his 2-point attempts last season. While he's unlikely to shoot that well, Hernangomez has the tools to finish against NBA defenders. He can go up to get lobs out of the pick-and-roll game and also catches the ball well on the move before finishing from a variety of angles around the basket. Hernangomez is a good free throw shooter (70.7 percent last season) who has flirted with a 3-point shot in the past, though that's a long way from becoming a regular part of his arsenal.
The 6-foot-10 Hernangomez doesn't have the lateral mobility necessary to defend power forwards, so he's strictly a center and a below-average shot blocker in that role. Hernangomez rarely leaves his feet to block shots, which makes it difficult for him to contest shots at his height. Real Madrid mostly settled on having him drop in the pick-and-roll because when he tried to show on ballhandlers, teams could create open shots for the big men on pick-and-pops. Hernangomez will also have to improve his strength to defend one-on-one in the post. As a result, he's unlikely to see rotation minutes this season when the Knicks are at full strength.
Maurice Ndour
Position: Forward
Experience: Rookie
Age: 24
Scouting report
+ High-post big man who's a capable midrange shooter and passer
+ Not a particularly efficient scorer; gets few easy scores
+ Good shot blocker for a power forward
Analysis
Ndour impressed while playing for New York in the 2015 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas alongside Porzingis, but the Dallas Mavericks swooped in to sign him with a guaranteed contract. The Mavericks ended up overfilling their roster and Ndour was the odd man out at the end of training camp. After playing briefly with Hernangomez for Real Madrid, he has finally landed with the Knicks on a two-year minimum deal that's fully guaranteed this season.
The triangle offense was a perfect showcase for Ndour's skills. He's an accurate midrange shooter who had college 3-point range (he made 27 3-pointers at a 43.5 percent clip as a senior at Ohio) and also a good passer for a big man. With the Mavericks, Ndour attempted to show he could make the NBA 3 and shot 2-of-13 beyond the arc in the preseason. Hopefully that experiment is behind him, though eventually Ndour needs to score more efficiently than he can subsisting on a heavy diet of long 2s.
A quality shot blocker in college, Ndour blocked two shots a game during his impressive summer-league run. His ability to protect the rim and defend power forwards might ultimately make him a good partner for Hernangomez, though neither is in line for rotation minutes at this point.
Marshall Plumlee
Position: Center
Experience: Rookie
Age: 24
Scouting report
+ Late-blooming younger brother of two NBA centers
+ Ultra-high-percentage finisher who knows limitations
+ Weak defensive rebounder who may have trouble with NBA athleticism
Analysis
The younger brother of fellow Duke products Miles and Mason, Plumlee will join them in the NBA this season. After playing sparingly his first three seasons in Durham, Plumlee emerged as a starter as a senior. His performance was enough to earn him a three-year minimum contract from New York as an undrafted free agent with his 2016-17 salary fully guaranteed.
It's safe to say that Plumlee knows his role on offense. He used just 12.1 percent of Duke's plays as a senior, and that was up from single-digit usage rates the previous two seasons. Plumlee will finish dump-offs around the rim at a high percentage (he shot 68.8 percent last season after hitting 76.2 percent as a senior) and never tries anything else. Per Synergy Sports tracking, Plumlee attempted just four shots all season from beyond five feet. When he doesn't have the ball, Plumlee is battling for position on the offensive glass.
While he's got similar size to his brothers, Plumlee isn't the same kind of athlete, and that may ultimately limit his NBA career. He may struggle in pick-and-roll coverage and against stretch big men. Plumlee was only a decent shot blocker in college and was a poor defensive rebounder, which suggests those will become major shortcomings in the NBA.
Ron Baker
Position: Guard
Experience: Rookie
Age: 23
Scouting report
+ Combo guard who's likely to play point in NBA
+ Will have to prove he can defend NBA point guards
Analysis
Baker helped take Wichita State to unprecedented heights -- a Final Four as a freshman, an undefeated regular season as a sophomore -- but went undrafted before signing a deal with the Knicks to fight for the 15th roster spot in training camp. As a Shocker, Baker started alongside Fred VanVleet and also backed him up, and he'll likely have to settle in as a point guard in the NBA at 6-foot-4.
Working in Baker's favor is New York's need for a third point guard, given Derrick Rose's injury history. Working against him is the fact that he's struggled at times with his decision making when confronted with NBA length and athleticism, and he hasn't had to guard quicker athletes on a regular basis.
J.P. Tokoto
Position: Guard
Experience: Rookie
Age: 22
Scouting report
+ Athletic wing player in search of an outside shot
+ Has shown promise as wing defender
Analysis
Tokoto made headlines last fall when he passed on playing overseas in favor of signing the non-guaranteed tender offer the Philadelphia 76ers were required to make to retain his rights as a second-round pick. Tokoto was waived during training camp, making him a free agent, and ended up playing in the D-League. He's likely headed back after signing with New York, given the team doesn't need more wings, but will at least get a $100,000 bonus via the guaranteed portion of his contract (per Eric Pincus of BasketballInsiders.com).
A phenomenal athlete, Tokoto has to prove he can keep defenses honest with his outside shooting to stick in the D-League. He failed to do so last season with the Oklahoma City Blue, shooting 25.0 percent from 3-point range.
Chasson Randle
Position: Guard
Experience: Rookie
Age: 23
Scouting report
+ Shooting guard in the body of a point guard
+ Played well in summer league
Analysis
After playing his first season out of Stanford in the Czech Republic for ČEZ Basketball Nymburk, Randle averaged 18.3 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals in three games for the Knicks in the Orlando Pro Summer League. He parlayed that into a deal with $100,000 guaranteed, per BasketballInsiders.com. That performance aside, Randle will have to prove he can run the point to make the roster. While he did at times in college, he and the team were most effective when he played off the ball. That's not realistic in the NBA at 6-foot-2.
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