As we await Thursday night's inevitable revenge curb-stomping at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, perhaps it is time to take a step back and appreciate the good things about the New York Knicks.
Hey, Shane Larkin is playing pretty well of late.
The pint-sized scion of Barry Larkin was put a most unenviable position to start the season -- appointed as the starting point guard in place of the injured Jose Calderon, tasked with running the brand new Triangle Offense. The results were just about everything you've come to expect from the 2014-15 Knicks:
When Larkin wound up with a DNP-CD in Calderon's debut against Philadelphia, it appeared he might be on the outs in Derek Fisher's schizophrenic rotation. But the kid has been one of New York's few positive contributors in the five games since his benching, chipping in 6.2 points on 45.8 percent shooting (41.7 percent from three) to go along with 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 19.4 minutes per game.
Freed from the burden of starting, Larkin is playing like a mini-Pablo Prigioni -- a strong (albeit unwilling) three-point shooter with a flair for sneakery. He ranks 16th in the league in steal percentage, two spots ahead of the master himself. Shane and Pablo are two of only five players who are shooting higher than 40 percent from three-point range while posting a steal percentage of higher than 2.5 -- a bizarre and hilarious list that also includes Steph Curry, Chris Paul and Jason Terry.
Ah, but is that really noteworthy? Perhaps not on a decent team, but certainly on the suck-ass Knicks. Hitting an occasional shot and swiping a steal or two practically qualifies Larkin as New York's best guard under the age of 30. Believe it or not, Larkin ranks third among Knicks guards in win shares per 48 minutes, behind only Prigioni and Calderon. Sure, that may say more about the unimaginable crappiness of New York's shooting guards, but let's try to accentuate the positive. Larkin is a young player who bounced back from a tough start and is playing some good basketball in a more appropriate role.
The question now becomes whether or not he can sustain this recent hot streak, particularly from beyond the arc. For what it's worth, the draftniks were bullish on Larkin's shooting ability coming into the league -- including this pre-draft analysis from some random chump named Paul Chillsap:
In addition to Larkin's splendid play on the interior, he showed a much improved perimeter shooting touch after a poor freshman season. Larkin shot 40% on the season from the great beyond, often showing true NBA range. He is comfortable shooting both off the catch and off the dribble, which renders him a diverse weapon on offense. For a team that runs plenty of offense through Carmelo Anthony, it's important that Melo have guys on the outside who can stretch the floor. Larkin seems to have both the ability and the confidence to be a capable and efficient shooter in the NBA, supported by his impressive .600 TS% in his final year at Miami. He shows solid mechanics, though a bit inconsistent. Larkin drifts forward a bit with his right foot at times and doesn't always follow through, but appears to have the touch to compensate.
It is scouting reports like these that led to Larkin being drafted 17th overall in 2013. That was seven spots ahead of current teammate Tim Hardaway Jr., a guard Larkin is currently out-playing. Perhaps that should come as no surprise.
Shane Larkin is never going to be a star. Hell, he's probably never going to be a starter. He has clear limitations on his game -- his height foremost among them. But the kid has some skills, and he seems to be on his way to finding a comfortable niche in the Knicks' rotation. And on a team with seemingly nothing but question marks, that simple fact can give fans a reason to smile.