Keith SchlosserOn Thursday night, the Knicks’ total haul from their trade with the Mavericks reached six players, with the selections of Cleanthony Early out of Witchita State at No. 34 overall, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo from the NBA D-League at No. 51 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Sometimes it’s trickier to spot potential diamonds in the rough when moving away from the cream of the crop and into the second round. But as he continues to prove, not only his eye for talent, but his ability to execute and make sensible deals, Phil Jackson has seemingly found two players who offer value to the Knicks in different ways.
Of course, Early appears to be the prospect more poised to start making an impact on day one. A versatile swingman, the young gun was a stud at Witchita State. An intriguing talent on the offensive end, Early can certainly put the ball in the basket. He scores with efficiency around the perimeter, and can even take a step back and pose as a threat to hit the long-range jumper as well. In addition to being able to crash the boards, Early isn’t afraid to drive through the lane, either. He has an explosive first step.
The forward has plenty of the tools necessary to become a solid offensive player in the NBA, but at this point, perhaps his overzealous nature precedes him. Like many young players still coming into their own, Early will need to further develop his instincts on the professional level. Still, the experience he amassed while realizing success as an underdog on the collegiate level will undoubtedly prove to be valuable in the Big Apple.
Should Carmelo Anthony stay in town, the Knicks will continue to employ one of the game’s most skilled scorers. Having said that, the team is still rather desperate to surround him with complementary players on offense. Early is the type of guy who can come in right away and score in bunches, whether that be while coming off the bench, or playing alongside Anthony in the front-court.
On the flip side, there’s a bit more to Antetokounmpo than meets the eye. His strengths aren’t as easy to spot, simply because they aren’t as distinct just yet. Still, his ceiling is rather high, nonetheless.
While playing for the Delaware 87ers, Antetokounmpo (yet another wing player) displayed an ability defend quite well, rebound the ball, and even look for his teammates in transition a bit. His quick hands make it easy for him to react and/or pester opposing ball-handlers.
His statistics in the D-League aren’t all that imposing, which is a tad surprising. One would think a potential NBA draftee would go on to dominate the minor league. As a young gun still adjusting to playing stateside after hitting the hardwood in Greece, Antetokounmpo’s instincts still need some work. He needs to be guided, but perhaps there isn’t much wrong with that. As the Knicks look to retool, perhaps somebody who they can mold into exactly the type of player they prefer (with little resistance from said player) is a plus.
Whereas Antetokounmpo has already shown flashes of doing all of the little things, he still has a way to go on the offensive end. His confidence may not be where it needs to be, so he subsequently lacks that same assertiveness necessary to take the ball to the hole. In time, that will come. Perhaps the beauty of this for the Knicks will be Antetokounmpo’s versatility. Because he’s a wing who enjoys doing all sorts of intangible things, it’s likely he’ll fit right in alongside any number of different lineup combinations. This will give New York the flexibility to explore and further understand his strengths on this level.
In Early, the Knicks acquired a player who can providing a scoring punch. Antetokounmpo can potentially step in to contribute and fill various voids. Both players stand to give New York a boost, and they’ll do so at a cheaper price, too. That’s what Jackdson will be looking for as he fills out this roster.
And if that in itself wasn’t enough, the team also purchased the No. 57 overall selection from the Indiana Pacers. In picking Louis Labeyrie out of France, the Knicks acquired a valuable asset, whether they see that realized via potential contributions on the court, or in adding value to a future trade sometime soon.
Color that a successful evening for Jackson and the team’s brass.