Around the NBA: Knicks vs 76ers (10/24)

Around the NBA: Knicks vs 76ers (10/24)
Oct 24, 2006, 11:10 pm
This is the first installment of a new feature here at DraftExpress, where we will monitor the progress of young players in the NBA, tracking their development after they’ve been drafted. This feature will provide you with a comprehensive analysis of various players’ development and adaptation into the NBA, helping you keep track of all the young players constantly developing around the league.

In this first installment, we’ll take a look at the youths on the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, as the teams square off in a preseason contest at Madison Square Garden.

Box Score

New York Knicks

The Knicks team is made up of a plethora of young players, including sophomores Channing Frye, David Lee, and Nate Robinson, to go along with rookies Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins. Balkman, selected with the 20th pick in this year’s draft, was subject to much criticism, primarily because highly touted point guard Marcus Williams was still on the board. Balkman has really excelled thus far in pre-season, but his name will likely be linked to Williams, now playing across the river for the New Jersey Nets, for years to come.

Balkman has been a real difference maker on defense and the boards thus far for the Knicks in preseason, but had a quiet showing in this game. He tallied only two rebounds and one steal in 16 minutes, and wasn’t causing havoc in the passing lanes as frequently as he had in prior games. He had a few nice easy scores around the rim by getting open without the ball, and made an explosive transition jam, but didn’t make the impact Knicks fans have already come to expect from him. Balkman had three turnovers today, but his passing and ball-handling have been better than advertised in his limited showings with the Knicks. He especially stands out with these abilities in the open court. With Jared Jeffries out with a wrist injury for a few weeks, and Jalen Rose seeming to fall out of favor with the Knicks staff more and more each minute, Balkman should be able to find himself some time early in the season. He started the second half of the game today in place of the struggling Jalen Rose.

Of the young players in the game, Knicks combo guard Nate Robinson definitely had the best showing, lighting it up from the outside like he did for much of last season. Robinson, who had a questionable outside shot coming into the league, shot a surprising 40% from behind the arc last season, and has kept that pace so far in this preseason. He connected on five of seven from deep range in the game, while really limiting his questionable shots, hitting seven of 11 from the field overall. Robinson’s decision-making is still questionable, though he’s dished out quite a few nice passes this preseason, both in transition and the half court. His defensive effort was very consistent in this game, though his effectiveness was not, occasionally getting beat by bigger players like Kyle Korver and even Kevin Ollie. Robinson’s biggest issue at this point is consistently managing a game as the primary ball-handler, as his most effective stretches as a Knick last season undoubtedly came when he was playing off the ball.

Channing Frye had a tough game, failing to effectively guard Chris Webber, and continuing to struggle with his outside shot, as he has all preseason. There doesn’t seem to be any mechanical differences, and odds are he’s just having trouble adjusting to the new ball. Frye has shown some improved proficiency in the post, though, adding some mass to his upper body, and looking more comfortable using the handful of moves in his post arsenal, including a jump hook, a face-up jumper, and a nice up-and-under move.

David Lee had a solid showing, doing all of the little things he’s become known to do so well. Lee put up 10 rebounds (5 offensive) and 3 assists to go along with 9 points, many of which came on putbacks. Lee has been showing very strong passing and ball-handling skills for a forward, and continues to make things happen when he’s in the game. Lee’s also been noticeably more vocal on the floor, and seems to be stepping into somewhat of a leadership role on the team.

Mardy Collins definitely had his best game thus far in the preseason, and probably the only game in which he’s done something worth mentioning. Collins scored 11 points on four shot attempts while dishing out four assists, exhibiting his strong court vision and running the offense well. Collins looked a step slow on defense when matched with smaller guards, and also didn’t show much quickness on offense, though it didn’t limit his effectiveness. With the Knicks' back court as loaded as it is, Collins doesn't expect to see much playing time this season.

The only other Knick youth worth mentioning is Nikoloz Tskitishvili, the former #5 draft pick who has become the poster boy for European busts. Skita only played in garbage time, as he has all preseason, and was a complete non-factor. He doesn’t exhibit any of his skills on the floor, lacking any semblance of confidence on either end of the court. He doesn’t call for the ball offensively, and when he gets it, he usually looks to give it up right away. Skita’s only shot attempt was a hook shot within five feet that he bricked severely.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers don’t have as many first and second year players playing major roles as the Knicks do, but one definitely worthy of mention is this year’s 16th pick, swingman Rodney Carney. Carney had a strong showing today with 10 points, exhibiting his quickness in getting to the basket on offense. His outside shot was off today, and he forced a few questionable shots, but he was excellent in driving past his man and finishing at the basket, using his great combination of size and athleticism. Carney had one really nice drive in which he spun with the ball and pulled up, using his excellent elevation to get his shot off over the defender. Carney also looked good in transition, dishing out two assists and throwing down an explosive dunk that many have come to know him for doing.

Shavlik Randolph projects to be the Sixers’ backup power forward this year, and he put up a solid performance in limited minutes. He showed some nice footwork in the post, using a series of fakes and patience to score on Channing Frye, and also was active on the boards. He had a nice block on the defensive end when David Lee tried to face him up in the post, but other than that, he was pretty non-descript in this game.

There weren’t many other standout performances by the Sixers’ youngsters, but one player worth mentioning is 4th year veteran Willie Green, who is trying to recover from a season-ending knee injury he suffered early last year. Green has started four of five games for the Sixers in the preseason, though he hasn’t been able to produce much. This game was no exception, as he shot a poor 1-of-11 from the field. He managed to get open without the ball frequently, getting off quite a few good looks on mid-range shots, but wasn’t able to complete any. He also did fairly well in getting past his man and into the lane, but couldn’t finish most of his attempts. He dished out a few nice assists, and was adequate at handling the ball, but overall, he doesn’t seem to be fully up to speed with NBA competition yet.

The rest of the Sixers played non-descript games for the most part, but Louis Williams showed off some nice quickness and ability to get to the hole in garbage time. Second-round pick Bobby Jones was aggressive on defense, but still hasn’t developed an offensive skill he can consistently rely on in the NBA. Neither project to be part of the Sixers' regular season rotation.

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