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Background Check: Perspectives on Hill and Douglas

I think it's in our best interest to take a breather from the impending doom of the Jason Kidd scenario and take stock of the solid, YOUNG talent the Knicks already have. After the draft, I got in touch with representatives from two of SBN's finest blogs: Florida State's Tomahawk Nation and Arizona's AZ Desert Swarm. I sent each a few questions to give us at P&T a better sense of what to expect from Donnie Walsh's draft selections.

Check 'em out after the jump...

Leading off, here are TrueCubbie of Tomahawk Nation's thoughts on the Knicks' 29th pick, guard Toney Douglas:

P&T: The big question for Knick fans is whether or not Douglas can play the point. I've heard he's a smart guy, but does he have the leadership skills and passing ability to play the 1 at an NBA level?

TN: Toney has been cast as a hybrid guard and many argue that his role in the NBA is unclear: he shoots like a two but he's built like a one. One of the easiest comparissons to make is that of Ben Gordon. Let me make this clear, Toney Douglas is NOT Ben Gordon. It's true that Toney is able to create his own shot and has the ability to put up a ton of points, but it was really a product of the Florida State offensive system, which was a less than ideal Motion Offense with a group of very talented but young players. If Toney didn't score, the Seminoles didn't win. Due to the fact that our offense was not dependent on Toney distributing the ball, his passing stats do not jump off the page. Unfortunately, our team, too often, stood around and hoped that Toney would "do something." Fortunately, he could, as he led our team to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 11 years.

In 130 career games, Toney averaged 2.6 assists per game. Despite the lack luster offense and the need for a "true point guard," Toney had his best year distributing the ball with 2.914 APG. Obviously, this doesn't compare to Ty Lawson's 6.571 per game, but keep in mind they played on two completely different offensive mided teams. Toney was our offense.

Toney averaged 2.5 turnovers per game this year. Keep in mind that as the year progressed, many teams tried to trap Toney on a regular basis as he had limited options and that he played 90.7% of his team's possible minutes this year. More playing time naturally sets you up for more turnovers. His turnover rate, which is the percentage of personall possessions used on turnovers, was 14.4, which ranked 242 in the country, but Toney was respsonible for 27% of the Florida State's poseesions, meaning the percentage of plays that a player is credited for ending a possession (making a basket, a turnover, a shot with a missed rebound...anything that results in the end of a possession, it could be good or bad).

Based on Toney's build, speed and agility, he has the basic skill set and tools to run the point in the NBA. I urge you to watch some of his game tape to see his court managment and leadership style. He is not going to be a Steve Nash or have the highlights of a Ricky Rubio, but he is a floor general. In an article I wrote for the Atlanta Hawks, I compared him to a Chauncey Billups but with slighly less passing ability.

Coach Hamilton had this to say about Toney's leadership:

"The thing that he’s done more than anything else is that he’s given us leadership," Hamilton said. "He’s taken a team with six first-year players and he’s found a way to communicate with them without being offensive, and they have followed his lead. He has a temperament about him that is non-threatening, but is persistent and he’s able to get guys to rally around him."

The night before games, the coaches go over a scouting report. Then Douglas calls together his teammates to give his own scouting report. Hamilton cited it as Douglas understanding that "the players had to communicate with each other and then in their own terms."

Yes, Toney has the leadership and passing ability to run an NBA team. However, Toney will be the first to admit that he is a "guard" and doesn't like being labeled either way, but wants to be the best player that he can be: "I call myself a guard," Douglas said. "I'm not a natural point. I'm not a natural two. I'm just a guard. I can do both. Me being versatile, I think I'm more of a threat out there on the court."

P&T: Douglas was ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Why? Do you think he's capable of guarding NBA two-guards despite his height?

TN: When Toney entered college, he was a pure scorer. Believe it or not, Toney played his freshman year at Auburn, after which he tried his hand in the Draft. Realizing he wasn't getting the attention he deserved, or wanted, he withdrew. Auburn was not happy with his actions and actually released him from his contract. At that point, Leonard Hamilton, the Florida State coach, started recruiting Toney and convinced him to transfer to Florida State.

Hamilton is all about defense. He gets his players to buy in to putting as much effort into playing defense as they do offense. The Seminoles strictly play a tight man to man defense, which will help Toney significantly in the NBA.

Toney was the ACC Defensive Player of the year in 2009 and was on the All-ACC Defensive Team for the past two years. He was also named to numerous other All-Collegiate defensve teams. During his career, Toney averaged 1.8 steals per game, with a max of 2.6 in 2008. Toney is committed to shutting down his opponents and he has an excellent understanding of basketball. The fact that he is extremely fast, the fastest player in the pre-draft combine in the 3/4 court sprint and 5th in the shuttle, helps his defenisve ability. He is able to play close man to man defense. He isn't sitting back to allow a player to get into his body; Toney likes to dictate the offensive players possession. There were a number of games that as Toney was following his man through screens, he would drop his off hand and block passing lanes, denying a ton of passes. He is committed to these subtle techniques to play defense. In many interviews he admits his passion for defense: "The main reason I think I play good defense is because in this league, there's a lot of good guards. If you don't play good defense, you get exposed real quick," Douglas said. "It's a pride thing."

Toney is also very strong, putting up some excellent numbers in the bench press at the combine. Plus, he isn't intimidated by a challenge. Night after night, he shut down some of the best guards in the country. The limit to his abilit to guard the two will be his height, but on any given night in the NBA you see the 'tweeners guarding 2's very well. I think he is going to frustarte a lot of players in the NBA.

In summary, he will be your shut down defender and will be fine.

P&T: Are there any good stories we should know about Toney, on or off the court?

TN: Toney is an outstanding person. He is a family man and he comes from a supportive family. His brother Harry is a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Toney finished his degree in business in 2008 and chose to stay on another year to play basketball. He has also been working on his Master's degree. He has never been questioned about his character or been in trouble while at FSU.

P&T: P&T users have already taken to calling Douglas "Ghostface" or "Pretty Toney". Does he have any pre-existing nicknames from his days as a Seminole?

TN: Toney was typically referred to as "TD." Not too exciting. But, at the end of each huddle, the Seminoles would break by saying "TDT": Toney Douglas Time. Talk about respect from your team.

P&T: Where would you rank Toney in terms of talent/popularity in comparison to other well-known Florida State guards like Ward, Sura, Cassell, and Wafer?

TN: I think your affection for each depends on your generation. Toney is certainly one of the best guards in Florida State history. For those of you who don't know, Bob Sura played from '91 - '95 and was Honorable Mention All-American in 94 and 95 and is the all time leading scorer in FSU history, third in steals and fifth in assists.  You all know Ward better than I do for basketball. He is generally remembered at Florida State for his football career. Cassell is one of the all time favorites at FSU as he was not only an outstanding basketball player but a great person. Von Wafer may be a familiar name as he is now playing for the Houston Rockets. I would say that Douglas and Sura will likely be used in the same sentence in the future. Wafer on played for two years and Ward's legacy is football.

Next, I sent some questions to Dave Crockett of Arizona Desert Swarm (though you may know him from elsewhere) regarding the Knicks' lottery selection, big man Jordan Hill. Here's our exchange:

P&T: Jordan Hill's not quite 7-foot and on the light side, but with David Lee in the lineup (for the time being), Hill might fit better as a 5 than as a 4. Does Hill have the skills to compete against NBA centers?

AZDS: Yes and no. Think Chris Wilcox as Hill's most comparable, but without the focus problems. Hill is more 4 than 5, but lots of guys at 6'10 in shoes and 232# log some minutes at the 5. D'Antoni doesn't consider that a problem. Assuming that the Knicks hang on to Lee, he and Hill can definitely play together. Hill came to the game late, and as you'll see in summer league he's still a touch raw. Having said that, he's got a nice jump hook he can go to over either shoulder. He can run the floor like a gazelle. He has a developing 15-footer (though he's not the shooter Channing Frye was). I think what Knicks fans will come to like about Jordan--is that he's a tough kid. As I mention in the season retrospective, when he gets the ball in the paint there is no flippy, scoopy nonsense. He plays with some pop.

P&T: Hill's shot-blocking and general defensive fundamentals get mixed reviews, depending on where you look. Does he have the tools, or at least the potential, to salve the Knicks' glaring lack of post defense?

AZDS: If by "salve the Knicks' glaring lack of post defense" you mean (along with Darko) provide NY 12 fouls to give at the 5 in order to keep David Lee out of bad matchups, then yes. Yes he does. Jordan has the athletic tools to be a decent position defender. I don't think he has the timing to be a quality shotblocker, as he takes sort of a long windup on shot block attempts. Nevertheless he is active on defense and could grow into a good ball-denial, charge-taking post player, along the lines of Anderson Varajao if he is coached. Unfortunately, he has a lot of bad habits from college (as do virtually all college bigs), like not defending until after his man has established position and has the ball. I suspect he'll be well-acquainted with the foul whistle early in his career.

P&T: Are there any good stories or Wildcat secrets we should know about Hill from his days at Arizona, on or off the court?

AZDS: Not really. I haven't been on campus since 2000 but I keep fairly close tabs on the program and still have close friends in Tucson. So, at least as far as what makes the papers, he's a pretty low key, drama-free kid. Honestly, I wish I had something funny but the kid pretty much just came to school, played hard, and improved a lot.

P&T: Hill claims he's suited for the fast break and pick-and-roll, which are cornerstones of Mike D'Antoni's offense? Should we believe him?

AZDS: Yeah, you should. I know a lot of Knicks fans are disappointed at not being able to draft Stephen Curry, who I think will be a very, very good player, or work out a deal for Ricky Rubio. At the same time, Jordan Hill will almost certainly top out at "quality complimentary player." That's tough to swallow for Knicks fans, given the past several seasons of Job-like misery and the understandable feeling that after the Marbury saga, the Eddy Curry saga, and the Isiah Thomas saga, all just since the last draft, that the basketball gods kinda owed us Curry. But, what are you gonna do? Sometimes you can't hit a homerun. You just gotta stroke the ball the other way and take your single. That's what Walsh did in drafting Hill.

Hill's going to provide decent minutes at the five and four, probably in that order and perhaps even start depending on what happens with Eddy Curry. Hill's going to beat bigs down the floor. He'll provide some post offense, where there has been effectively none without Curry, espeically when teams try to go small. He can shoot out to 15 feet, if inconsistently. I think Knicks fans will learn to like him.

Many, many thanks to both college bloggers for their contributions. I think we've got plenty to look forward to from each of these players on the court, though I'm a little disappointed in the lack of dirt on their off-the-court lives. No worry, though. Let's just say I've done some digging of my own.

We knew about this:


...but this is gonna need some explaining: