While many expected Langston Galloway to turn it up a notch, it was none other than Cleanthony Early who seemingly made strides instead.
Taken with one of the second-round picks acquired in the Tyson Chandler deal last summer, the Knicks were hoping to get something of substance from Early during his rookie campaign. Instead, he faded into the background rather quickly when on the floor. The young gun struggled with confidence, couldn't hit jump-shots to save his life, but in the same respect, wasn't assertive enough to attack the basket instead.
There was a string of games mid-way through last season during which Coach Derek Fisher instilled some trust in the rookie, using him as a defensive replacement in late-game lineups. That said, there's no doubt his inability offensively soon made him a liability on that end of the floor.
Finally, in Las Vegas just a couple months ago, much of that seemed to change. Primarily playing against some of the NBA's fellow youngsters, Early took charge and hit the court with abandon. He was aggressive, but played rather intelligently as well. He attacked the basket, creating more higher-percentage looks for himself. What's more, with the Knicks practicing more nuances of the triangle offense, Early could also be seen running the floor and getting his teammates more involved in a point-forward type of role.
The 24-year-old's game still needs plenty of work, but it was good to see him attempting to do the right things in Las Vegas. Confidence was a big issue for Early last season, especially as he struggled to find his way after returning from an injury. He needs to display the same type of assertiveness he did while on assignment with the Westchester Knicks. If he continues to make smart decisions and play in a rather efficient manner, the rest will fall into place.
As the Knicks figure out their prospective rotation when training camp begins, it'll be interesting to see if Early cracks the lineup. When healthy and confident, the youngster boasts some versatility that could prove to be vital in different matchups. He should be able to play anywhere between 20-25 minutes per game, if the Early everyone saw in Summer League comes to play.
With Early's potential clearly evident, it'd be nice to see the Knicks continue to get a return on some of their promising young talent.