PG Shane Larkin Was the Most Improved in Knicks Summer League

The New York Knicks competed their Summer League run with a record of 4-1. We will review the 2014 summer league roster starting with point guard Shane Larkin.

From Game 1 until Game 5, Larkin was the most improved player on the Knicks roster. He started off slow and off the mark, as he got more comfortable in the offense, Larkin really improved. The turnaround for the Miami product began in the fourth quarter of the second game, which culminated in Larkin’s game-winning baseline jumper. Larkin started 4 of 16 (25 percent) and finished 20 of 40 (50 percent).

Considering he isn’t an elite athlete that shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Larkin isn’t going to overwhelm opponents with elite size or speed, so he needs to play within an offensive scheme. As he learned, Larkin got better and better.

It seemed, as he understood what he was supposed to do, the 2013 first round pick played with more confidence. In the final three games he did a much better job of finishing around the rim, after looking very shaky early on in Las Vegas. He’s an excellent cutter and flashed the ability to move without the ball, which should endear him to president Phil Jackson and coach Derek Fisher. Most of his baskets around the rim were the result of backdoor cuts.

At times Larkin flashed a sweet stroke, something Jackson spoke about when he visited the MSG telecast. The president identified Larkin as a “good shooter” and listed the point guard among those he wants shooting the ball from the perimeter. However, Larkin needs to be more consistent with his outside game from downtown. In Las Vegas, he shot just 42.9 percent overall and a very poor 30 percent from three-point range.

He’s not a pure playmaker (3.4 assists per game) and lacks the ability to consistently breakdown defenses off the dribble, but that’s OK, because the triangle offense is built on ball and player movement, while spreading out the distribution responsibilities. Having said that, Larkin is a good passer with excellent court vision. He also has a strong handle and except for a few sloppy moments he did a good job of protecting the basketball.

At times he had trouble staying with opponents who were both bigger and quicker than him, but for the most part Larkin had a strong defensive run in Vegas. He is heady and pesky. Larkin has the quick hands to strip the basketball away from opponents and is even better at playing the passing lanes with his deft anticipation skills. He had 15 steals in five games and more than held his own on the boards, averaging 4.2 rebounds per game.

If he can improve his three-point shooting Larkin has all the tools to be an effective player in the triangle offense.

While reports have the Knicks talking internally about trading Larkin, as the club looks to shed some of their glut at the guard position, I’d like to see Larkin stay. He may not have the highest ceiling, but he’s young enough were there is still a lot of room to grow in his game. He’s a smart and skilled player who plays with passion defensively, all attributes the Knicks can use.

In Las Vegas, Larkin showed he could be a contributing player this upcoming season as a backup to Jose Calderon, providing 15-22 minutes coming off the bench in his second NBA season. Expect Larkin to continue to get better as he learns the nuances of the triangle offense

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