The Knicks are only two games into Las Vegas Summer League, but already, it's easy to see there's a change in the team's culture from last summer.
Approximately a year ago, New York's Summer League team was filled with familiar faces, simply because you likely only knew their close relatives first. The likes of Jeremiah Rivers (son of Doc), Chris Smith (brother of J.R.), and Walker Russell Jr. (son of Walker Russell Sr.) all donned orange and blue last summer, likely out of courtesy to those relatives with previous Knicks' ties.
But this year is a bit different. Though the younger Smith has returned yet again, the rest of the Knicks' Summer League squad is filled with intriguing players who may actually stand a chance to, not only make the team next season, but help them as well.
With a handful of rosters spots up for grabs this offseason, it's clear the Knicks not only have the opportunity to get younger, it's probably simply in their best interest anyway.
With that in mind, there are a select few prospects in Vegas that have looked promising enough to perhaps invite to training camp so far. Two of the brighter shinning stars thus far have been N.C. State's CJ Leslie, and former Warriors (Golden State AND Santa Cruz) big man Jeremy Tyler.
Desperately In need of an injection of youth, both players stand a decent chance of making the team this coming fall. Leslie has already been invited to training camp, and if the Knicks are smart, Tyler should be too.
The big man roared and soared during the Knicks' opening game in Vegas this past Friday. On his way to scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, Tyler got down and dirty and put on display his very physical nature.
On Sunday afternoon, Tyler experienced success yet again, but did so in a different way. During the Knicks' 82-69 victory over Washington, the 22 year old displayed some sweet midrange jumper as well. He finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds.
Whereas Tyler is more physical, Leslie has impressive athleticism. He may have only scored 9 points on 4 of 10 shooting from the field on Sunday, but the way the forward got to the basket was explosive. He's raw, and may need some time to develop and hone his skills a bit more, but the Knicks would be smart to hold onto him until he's ready to let them reap the benefits of doing so. It would be a low-risk, high-reward move, but the Knicks have the roster spots available to watch him grow without any immense amount of pressure.
In past years, the Knicks' Summer League teams has been filled with favors to other individuals. This year, the roster is instead highlighted by players who could make meaningful impacts next season.