Suddenly, there’s been a bit of free agent speculation concerning the New York Knicks — Carmelo Anthony to the Houston Rockets, Anthony to the Charlotte Hornets…. As free agency approaches, a lot of teams will pop out of the blue and be linked with Anthony, and for the Knicks, re-signing or getting something in return for Anthony’s departure will be the major part of the summer.
But the Knicks will also have business to attend to elsewhere. Whether Anthony stays or goes, they’ll be trying to build a team for the future. If ‘Melo remains a Knick, New York will try and build a solid supporting cast and keep the books clear for an additional superstar in 2015. If ‘Melo leaves, New York will still be doing the same, but perhaps with a little bit more of an eye towards the future instead of the present.
Which brings us to two young talents the Knicks have the ability to keep around: Jeremy Tyler and Toure’ Murry. Both players resided on the Knicks’ bench for most of the season, and their playing time was fairly limited. However, when both were on the floor, they showed glimpses of rotation-worthy players.
The Knicks have a team option of roughly $948,000 for Jeremy Tyler, who in the 2011 draft was considered one of the top big men before falling into the second round. He’s hopped around in his two years in the NBA and spent some time in the D-League before getting some burn with the Knicks in the earlier months of 2014.
Tyler’s numbers won’t blow anyone away, but in January and February when he saw the court the most often, he averaged 4.2 points on 55.4% FG and 3 rebounds per game in just 10 minutes per night. For the season, his per-36 numbers read: 13.2 points per game, 51.7% FG, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Granted, per-36 numbers can be misleading, but not many big men average those numbers anyway if given the playing time.
Tyler’s highlights show a big man who can post up, create a shot for himself, hit the mid-range jumper, and attack the boards with gusto. Sure, he can be sloppy with the ball, he sometimes rushes near the basket, he has a lot to learn about defending and positioning, but that’s what a young project is — a project. Oh, and he’s 22-years old.
Toure’ Murry, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent, and the Knicks don’t have his rights to sign him for the future. Yet given how little other teams have seen of him, it shouldn’t be that hard for the Knicks to re-sign him.
Murry is far more raw than Tyler, but he shows the ability to be an impactful player. Murry only played 51 games tihs year, averaging just 7 minutes per contest, but he showed glimpses on the court of a player who can play in an up-tempo system and act as a defensive pest against opposing guards. Murry got his shot in the Las Vegas Summer League last year and impressed people with his defensive feist and ability to run an offense.
Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Toure’ Murry and Iman Shumpert were the Knicks fifth best two-man lineup, finishing with a net rating of 31.4, and they were the best two-man lineup to play at least 90 minutes together for the season. The two combined for a downright stingy 88.5 defensive rating. With Murry on the floor in general, the Knicks’ defensive rating was 104.4, which is two points better than their defensive rating as a team for the whole season.
As mentioned, Murry is raw. It’s hard to get a grasp of his game, but from his highlights, he looks like a solid reserve guard who can come in short stints, run the pick-and-roll, attack the basket, and bother opposing guards.
Now, it’s not as either player is going to become superstars; the Knicks didn’t mine up gold here. But good teams take young players, develop them, and turn them into reliable cogs in the rotation. Look at the San Antonio Spurs who have seamlessly blended role players year after year to surround their Big Three. The Miami Heat’s back-court relies partially on Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, both of whom were young draft picks, developed them and entrusted them with the job of helping run the offense. It can be seen now with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Scott Brooks giving players like Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Steven Adams the chance to contribute at big moments.
Given these teams’ superstars and title aspirations, it would’ve been easy for management to leave young players stuck to the bench and chase bigger name veterans. Instead, they’ve built solid supporting casts from the ground up to surround their superstars. The New York Knicks would be wise to do the same.