In an effort to add players who aren’t broken and can actually play, the Knicks will sign forward James Singleton (no, not the guy we passed up for Shumpert in the draft) and release the injured Kurt Thomas. The only thing I knew about Singleton prior to writing this post is that his name was James Singleton. I’d heard of him a few times, but couldn’t recall having seen him play. I read around the inter-webs for information and here’s what I came up with:
Singleton stands 6’8 230 pounds and is a forward. He seems positionally versatile due to his size, so I could see him playing multiple positions with the Knicks. Because the Knicks have zero healthy big men, he’ll play power-forward primarily and probably some center too. Basketball-reference had him listed as a power-forward for the Wizards last year. In 12 games with Washington last season, Singleton played well. His TS% was .60 and he recorded a PER of 19.6. Small sample size definitely applies, but I like this guy. I took to Synergy to watch some film on him and I like what I saw.
The thing that stood out to me the most is that he just knows how to play the game. This sounds cliche, but I think it’s appropriate in describing Singleton. Offensively, he understands floor spacing and offensive rebounding. He’s good at getting position on his guy to position himself for put backs or offensive boards. Defensively, he seems to have grasped Washington’s scheme well. From the film I watched, I didn’t see him out of position much at all. While he’s not super quick in his rotations he knows where he’s supposed to be and he understands how to play help defense.
Here are some offensive boards:
Rather than boring you with some videos of him playing defense, I choose to break down a play that I think indicates his understanding of help defense and how to play.
Miami’s running a pick and roll out past the three point line on the right side of the floor. I highlighted where Singleton is. His job is going to be to help down on the roll man while maintaining position to run out and contest his guy out past the three point line.
He does a great job of sliding down to the free throw line to help deny the roll man from getting the ball. Outside the upper left hand corner of the box, Singleton’s man slides closer to the middle of the arc in order to create a better angle to receive a pass.
When the ball is skipped across the floor to Singleton’s man, he does a really good job of running out to contest the shot.
He gets a quality contest on the shot, which results in a miss.
Here’s the play in real time:
As you can see, he has a good grasp of how to play defense, in that instance as a weak-side help defender. Throughout the film I watched, Singleton was impressive in his ability to know where to go and when to go there. He’s not a lockdown defender or elite defender by any measure, but he’s not going to be a liability either. If the Knicks coach him up, he’ll know where to go.
He’s also good in the pick and roll as the roll guy. Given that he’s going to probably see minutes at center, this is a good thing in the Knicks wide open offensive attack. He’s super athletic, so he can get to the rim after receiving the ball. He understands floor spacing really well, so he knows when to roll or when to pop after setting the initial pick. Though he’s not a great shooter, he seems to know when to take shots and when not to take them. I put together a cut-up of a few pick and rolls he was involved in last season:
Overall, Singleton looked like a solid NBA caliber guy. He’s probably not rotation caliber, but I like him as a 13th guy coming off the bench for a few minutes of hustle and defense. At age 31, his experience really is noticeable. For a veteran team like the Knicks, Singleton makes a lot of sense. They can plug him in there and tell him what to do and he should be solid. I think he’s definitely more serviceable than the other James currently on the roster and, with 6 injured big men, he’ll probably prove to be much more productive as well. It sucks to have lost Kurt Thomas, for purely sentimental reasons, but I really like this signing for the Knicks. Hopefully Singleton doesn’t have to play much moving forward, but I think he’ll be solid if called upon.
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