We were fortunate enough to exchange questions and answers with Mike from the tremendous New York Knicks blog KnickerBlogger. I asked him some specific questions about the abilities of the four Knicks that came to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony Trade and he provided some great insights.
RMC: Chandler has had a bit of a breakout season. How much room does Chandler have to grow as a player? What areas does he need to improve on?
Mike: I was down on Chandler early, and for a few seasons I said he needed to improve his three point percentage or free throw attempts. This year he’s become a better shooter from downtown, which helped his efficiency. He could still go to the charity stripe more often, which might be tough since he’s good at avoiding contact when driving. Given his athleticism he could be a better rebounder or defender. I think he has some room to grow, but he’s close to his ceiling.
RMC: He seems to be a player who can play three positions. Can he survive defensively at shooting guard or power forward?
Mike: At both positions he can survive defensively, but with caveats. He’s better suited to guard power forwards than guards, but does an adequate job at both. At power forward rebounding is a bit of a liability. On the offensive end he’s better suited for power forward than shooting guard. Chandler doesn’t create much in iso situations, and he’s better suited to drive when the ball is rotated to him. He’s quicker than most PF, but not guards, so that limits his inside game when playing against smaller players. He also doesn’t post-up shooting guards, so that negates his height advantage.
RMC: Would you characterize Felton as a pass first point guard? It seems he was forced into being the second option on offense on many nights. Do the Nuggets need to make sure he does not have to carry a bulk of the scoring load?
Mike: I don’t think Felton was forced to become the second option as much as he wanted to take that responsibility. And you don’t want Felton carrying the scoring load because he’s not a good scorer. It almost seemed that he had the green light to take shots when he shouldn’t have.
RMC: Does Felton have very good vision and timing or is his solid assist rate a product of the SSOL system?
Mike: Yes, he has good vision. Granted with the Knicks Felton had more opportunities to run the offense, as well as a good finisher in Amar’e. Toney Douglas doesn’t have as good a grasp of the offense that Felton does, so that shows that it’s not just the system that’s propping him up.
RMC: The Rooster is a tall and relatively athletic player. Why is he not a better rebounder?
Mike: You could ask this question about any of the current Knicks. Honestly he’s just not a banger, and on the offensive end he usually isn’t near the hoop unless he has the ball in his hands.
RMC: Gallo’s percentages have slipped every year of his career. Is he being asked to do too much on offense, or is he not as good of a shooter as his percentages from his rookie season would suggest?
Mike: First off his rookie season was abbreviated, so that one could be thrown out. Anyone can have a hot 20-30 games, especially someone new to the league. Second I don’t necessarily agree with the premise. Gallo’s TS% this year is higher than last, and this is because he’s gotten very good at getting to the line. Most people have pegged him as a three point shooter due to that rookie year, but he’s developed the ability to drive and get to the hoop or the free throw line. His free throw attempts per minute have gone up each year, and he’s currently averaging a robust 6.2 fta/36.
RMC: I know the Knicks were very high on him before the season, but is there anything he does well? At 24 what kind of room is there for improvement?
Mike: There is only room for improvement. Mozgov is pretty raw, but he showed coachability. He looked much different this last month than he did previously. He’s good at crashing the offensive boards, running the floor in transition, and catching the ball for an easy score. He’s not very skilled at the post, which causes him issues when he bobbles the ball or tries to create on his own. You’d like to see better instincts from him on the defensive end, including rebounding and fouls. He’ll never be a great player, but centers with size are hard to come by in the NBA. He could become a good backup, but has his work cut out for him.
RMC: If you are the Nuggets, which of the four Knicks players they received in this trade would be in your long term plans? Primarily, between Chandler and Gallo, who would you keep?
Mike: Gallinari, hands down. The guy is only 22 years old and he’s got a TS% of 60.0% this year. He didn’t have many opportunities to pass the ball, but the few times he did he’s shown some great ability. Gallo already knows how to sell the slightest bit of contact on his drives to earn a whistle and a trip to the hoop. And he’s an underrated defender. Of the players Denver received, he’s the one to keep. If he can put it all together, he’ll be an All Star.
I would like to offer a big thank you to Mike for taking the time to give us some insight into these players who Denver is rumored to be planning on hanging on to all their new players (take that with a grain of salt). Keep an eye on KnickerBlogger to monitor how things progress for our former Nuggets stars in The Big Apple.