New York Knicks: Takeaways after two Summer League games

Ignas Brazdeikis, New York Knicks (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ignas Brazdeikis, New York Knicks (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

After the Knicks fell to 0-2 in Summer League play after a 105-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns, people were left stunned that the favorites to win it all played so sluggish. One question that’s on everyone’s mind is ‘How could this happen?’

The New York Knicks entered summer league with an exciting mix of young rookies trying to make their mark and established sophomores looking to showcase their improvement as they moved on to year 2. Some have already shown up, while others are still looking to prove themselves. It’s time to take a more in-depth look at the young New York squad and examine both the good and the bad.

The Positives

Kevin Knox‘s Offense:  The much-maligned Kentucky product has played exceptionally well, and his blossoming offensive game is a clear indicator of that. He’s averaging 14.5 points and six rebounds per game while shooting 45.4% from the field and an even 50% from downtown. Every single one of these numbers is a statistical increase from his rookie averages, and his play certainly passes the eye test. While his automatic three-point shooting isn’t sustainable, his shot selection is much better, and his stroke looks as smooth as ever.

Skeptics may point to his production in last year’s summer league as a reason for false hope, where he averaged 21.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. However, he also shot just 35% from the field last year, and even worse from 3. He isn’t perfect, as his defensive intensity wasn’t always there and he still needs to work on limiting turnovers (3 per game), but it is clear to see the potential for a considerable increase in production for year two.

Ignas BrazdeikisFollowing a rough game against the New Orleans Pelicans in which he scored just 5 points on 2-8 shooting, the former Big 10 Freshman of the Year showed up in game 2. He dropped 30 points and eight rebounds while shooting a blistering 11-19 (57%) from the field. The fiery 20-year old showcased his offensive versatility, scoring from seemingly everywhere on the court.

He seemed relaxed under pressure, and his confident nature makes it easy to see him shining under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Although only two games have been played, it’s looking like Scott Perry & Co. have drafted another 2nd round steal.

The Negatives

R.J. Barrett: With the eyes of the entire NBA on him, R.J. Barrett has yet to make a statement on the court. His shooting seems off, and he sometimes looks to force a jump shot instead of finding looks within the flow of the offense. His numbers through two games aren’t pretty, as he’s putting up 9 points per game and 7.5 rebounds on 21.2% from the field, 15.3% from three and just 25% from the free throw line. His defense has been mostly subpar, and there aren’t a lot of highlight-reel plays from the 19-year old.

Taking a step back, it’s also essential to take his early results with a grain of salt. It’s way too early to come to conclusions about high lottery picks, as many have struggled in July and ended up taking the league by storm come October.

Lebron James averaged just 15.8 points on 36.9% shooting in summer league, and Derrick Rose was arguably worse while putting up only 9.5 points on 29.4% from the field. A recent example would be the Atlanta Hawks’, Trae Young. Through his first two summer league games, Young was averaging 14 points while shooting an abysmal 25% from the floor and 13% from deep. He would go on to have an amazing 1st year, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Barrett isn’t playing up to his draft position at the moment, but it is way too early for any real concerns about his NBA future.

Mitchell Robinson‘s Foul Woes: When news first leaked the Robinson would be playing in a few summer league games, fans were ready to watch the young center dominate. He has undeniably played well, but his rookie year issue of getting into foul trouble has seemed to follow him into Las Vegas. Playing in under 30 minutes of both games, Mitch has racked up ten total fouls compared to an underwhelming (but still impressive) 6 blocks.

This isn’t to say that Robinson isn’t having an impactful Summer League, as he has continued to show off his earth-shattering dunks and high-flying lobs. It’s just something to monitor as these games roll on.

Next. New York Knicks fans need to practice patience with RJ Barrett. dark

With everything from overtime thrillers to actual earthquakes interrupting play, it’s safe to say that this Knicks summer league has started with a bang. It’s disappointing to go into game three without a win, but there are still lots of good things to look forward to.