It is no surprise that the New York Knicks have thrown in the towel on this season. That hasn’t stopped Phil Jackson from combing through prospects to try out for next season. As reported by Newsday, Lance Thomas and Lou Amundson have been signed for the remainder of the season after playing through two 10-day contracts each.
Only days after Langston Galloway inked his first professional deal, New York decided to retain two of the players acquired from the JR Smith/Iman Shumpert dump off, and both have shown they have what it takes to be part of an NBA club.
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The plan for the rest of the season is simple: once Carmelo Anthony eventually decides to shut it down some time after the All-Star game, it’s open season for the rest of the team to show why they belong on this roster next season, which is expected to have an extreme overhaul once again. The only players who will be under contract next season are Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early and Pablo Prigioni. Langston Galloway, Travis Wear and Quincy Acy will all have team options for one more year that can be picked up or passed on. In a nutshell, one must prove his worth if they want a job in New York next season, and it will be a competition between young, hard-working players who want to make a name in the NBA.
New York has acquired a plethora of young players over the past seven months, dating back to the NBA draft. Thanasis Antentokounmpo also still waits for a shot to play at Madison Square Garden, which could come if the Knicks waive Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, or deal Calderon and Prigioni. There will be plenty of open minutes for players to gain valuable experience on an NBA floor and improve. However, as the Knicks gear to make a push for multiple big names in free agency, who will fill out the roster and support the team with cheap, young talent?
Jan 4, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Cleanthony Early (17) drives against Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. The Bucks defeated the Knicks 95-82. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early are first in line to show what they can provide the Knicks with next season. Both players have major offensive potential and room to grow on defense. Carmelo Anthony will need a solidified backup for next season that can come in and fill the void of a wing scorer in the lineup. The added defensive potential of Hardaway and Early as lanky swingmen is a positive bonus. However, the build up for both players has been quite humdrum. Hardaway is averaging 11 points, two rebounds and one assist, and as his numbers have slightly improved from last season, his shooting percentages have dropped off and could be a sophomore slump or something more to worry about. Cleanthony Early hasn’t gotten much of a shot to prove himself yet, but there is still half of the season remaining to get some good minutes on the floor as one of the A-B options on offense. Both players should undoubtedly be back next season; there is really no reason for either to be traded or stashed in Westchester for an entire season.
New York’s agenda should then list Langston Galloway, the biggest story for the Knicks over the past three weeks. Gallo 2.0 is a gritty, in-your-face type of player that could be a prototypical guard in the triangle. If the Knicks can move Calderon and decide to let Shane Larkin walk, Galloway is great depth at the guard position, but is in no way ready to lead a contending team in the playoffs just yet. As a player that was liked for his defensive prowess, Galloway’s defensive rating per 100 possessions is 111 — a high number for a guard in a league filled with elite guards. The ceiling is still high for Galloway, but a full offseason to work on his game and master the triangle will be beneficial to both he and the Knicks. Can he be a starter? Sure, maybe down the road in a few seasons, but New York needs to set their eyes on finding an all-star caliber two-way guard in free agency to lead the pack.
Sir Charles In Charge
Lance Thomas is also showing he can be a valuable asset to New York next season. In his seven games with New York, Thomas is putting up 10 points and four rebounds in about 25 minutes of action per contest, per Basketball-Reference. In five seasons, Thomas has yet to reach 164 games played, which would equal two full seasons, but the potential for the former Dukie is there. With the Knicks scouring for talent at every position, Thomas is another player who can add depth to a team that will be looking to fill starting positions in free agency over role players. That is why the development of young players now is so crucial for next season. New York would be smart to bring Thomas back.
As New York takes a long, hard look at these players, it is important to remember that immediate contribution is important for next season if the Knicks want to be the contender Phil Jackson says he can mold them into. The addition of the Westchester Knicks makes it much easier to monitor young talent and develop players, but who can translate that talent to the biggest stage in professional sports? These players will have the rest of the year to prove they can. As far as all the other expiring deals go, such as Jason Smith, Lou Amundson, Cole Aldrich and Shane Larkin, ties could end up being cut for the lone reason of roster and cap space. There is still plenty of time to prove they belong, however.