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Grading Jamel Artis’ Summer League campaign

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Virginia vs Pittsburgh Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Part 3 of P&T’s “Grading Summer League” series—click here for Damyean Dotson and here for Luke Kornet.

There’s a lot to know about former Pittsburgh standout Jamel Artis. Jamel has a twin brother named Jamaal, currently incarcerated and serving a 12-year sentence. This involuntary wedge between the brothers not only disrupts a bond that only 3% of Americans share, but is likely a figurative representation of the thin line between triumph and tragedy. The four-year Pittsburgh player was fifth in ACC scoring last season and is currently 24-years old, yet Artis failed to hear his name called on draft night.

Jamel Artis’ Summer League play mimicked the dichotomy of his personal life in some ways. Phil Jackson, former Knicks president who had a notorious penchant for four-year players, helped sign Artis to a partially-guaranteed contract just days before he was fired. Without Jackson in the front office, who’s to say that Artis would have even played for the Knicks in Summer League and not the Heat?

Artis had some great moments in Summer League; he also had some hiccups along the way. Several times, Artis would wow with a good defensive rotation to force turnover, only to throw an errant pass and concede the possession. This is the statistical output for Artis’ five-game Summer League stretch:

Of course, we are going to break down the areas of Artis’ game in the sections that follow, but for 18 minutes per game, Artis’ stat lines were pretty impressive on paper.

Artis’ bread and butter throughout his career has been scoring the basketball (scoring over 18 points per game in his senior season), and he did it in a variety of ways through the five games.

In some sequences, you could tell Artis was a four-year collegiate player. There was a craftiness to some of his buckets and regardless of some blunders here and there, it’s obvious that Artis is a relatively high-IQ player.

That’s not to say he always made great decisions. Perhaps needing time to adjust from being the primary scoring option at Pittsburgh, Artis hoisted a couple of shots I thought were ill-advised.

While Artis feasibly had a longer leash as a senior and primary option in college, he may have also had more room for error on his jump shot. There were several shots from Artis that seemed very off balance and inconsistent. With a closer collegiate 3-point line, Artis could maybe get away with some leaning 3s or off-balance chucks. Be that as it may, Artis still shot the 3 at a high percentage in the five-game sample size. I would like to see him become more consistent in the lower body on his jump shot, but I have to give Artis credit for knocking down shots at the rate he did. Still, while he shot 41% from 3 in the five games, who’s to say that percentage can’t improve with less lower-body deviation.

Artis was capable with the ball in his hands, but at times a bit too risky. Much of Artis’ success will hinge on his decision making.

For every self-inflicted error he committed, Artis countered with an impressive play or decision. Artis has a feel for the game that’s equal parts experience and instinct. Ironically enough, Artis played extremely well with Marshall Plumlee. If there were four Jamel Artises on the floor, there might still be a Plumlee on the Knicks.

To expand on Artis’ basketball IQ, I saw a lot of intricacies in his game that can’t be taught. The anticipation and feel that Artis showed at times was notable, mostly on help defense and defensive switches. Specifically, the first clip in the below sequence showed me how Artis sees plays develop and I liked the intangibles in that play, regardless of the unfavorable result.

Of course, Artis’ would at times help off a bit too much or try to “swing for the fences” with some of these anticipated possessions and get burned.

In general, you got a mixed bag from Artis on defense. When he remained steadfast, Artis was solid. When he tried to be too precarious, it often didn’t work out. His play on the defensive side of the ball is pretty well summed up below.

Artis seemed to be a quick learner and likely won’t have difficulty adjusting to NBA play too much. Early in the five-game stretch, Artis had a tendency to bring his defender toward the ball on offense and in general didn’t seem comfortable finding the appropriate spots on the floor. After the first game or two though, Artis and presumably the coaching staff corrected that issue.

While mostly playing on the wing, Artis did get some minutes at power forward, which I think would be interesting for him to try. Artis is 6’7” and has good strength coupled with an uncanny ability to stretch the floor as a shooter. How Artis would fare defensively and as a rebounder for prolonged periods against NBA power forwards remains to be seen. As a wing however, Artis really impressed me with his ability to track rebounds. Specifically, Artis opted to drift towards the rim on defense instead of leaking out in transition.

As mentioned earlier, Artis has already signed a partially-guaranteed contract which will ensure his presence at training camp. This proved to be the right call thus far, as he was probably the second or third best player for the Knicks in Summer League.

Artis seems like the absolute model player for a two-way contract, of which the Knicks still have an available slot.

Artis could be heard yelling out screens during the Summer League games and his smarts and experience are assets to his goal of making an NBA roster. Trying to do too much hurt Artis at times, but he’s got the skills and size to be in the league, regardless of his age and lower-echelon athleticism. Artis’ scoring is NBA-ready, and if he elevates the other areas of his game just a bit, he likely has a place in the league as a bench player in the future.

Grade: B-