Saturday night the New York Knicks shocked their entire fanbase. Not only did they win a game, but they dominated an entire game, and it was against one of the best teams in the NBA. I can not remember a more convincing win by the Knicks against such a strong team in years. Led by Toney Douglas and Bill Walker the Knicks beat the Dallas Mavericks, in Dallas, 128-94; completing the team's first road victory since February 26th against the Wizards.
Toney Douglas, in his third start of the season and fist since November, had his third 20 point performance of the season, scoring 21 points while shooting a very impressive 8-10 from the field and 4-4 from the 3PT line. Bill Walker came off the bench to score another career high of 23 points on 9-12 shooting, and 5-8 from the 3PT line. Harrington and Chandler also added 20 point performances to contribute to the win.
However, the victory and the seemingly random team effort was not what to take away from the game. Toney Douglas and Bill Walker are playing their way to significant roles onto this team next year. Douglas has become a hustle first point guard who is willing to make the right pass, as well as take the big shot. Douglas did also have 8 assists in the game with no turnovers. On the other hand, Bill Walker has become a sparkplug for the team. The 6'6 forward has shown incredible athleticism with dunk after dunk and has proven he can hold his own from three.
So now the question comes how good can these guys actually become? I feel that neither player will ever be a great starter on a winning team, however, that is not to say that they won't both have significant off the bench roles in their future. Douglas's numbers are very impressive this year, especially considering he has played very sporadic minutes. He is shooting 48.3% from the field, 39.3% from three, and 85.7% from the free throw line. He has made a handful of big plays this season, as well as a few rookie mistakes (most recently his turnover at the end of the Atlanta game that almost cost the Knicks a win).
Bill Walker is an interesting case. he has had multiple eruptions since he began with the Knicks, but I haven't really seen a real reason why or how he is scoring. He is more of a slasher who scores off of good passes and alley-oops from his teammates. He gets a few dunks per game, and occasionally has a mismatch in the paint where Walker can make a post move and score. "Sky Walker," as Clyde Frazier calls him, has also shown he can shoot the ball, something he claims he has always been capable of doing, but was just never given a chance to.
Personally, it feels like Walker's success is a bit of an aberration and I am not fully sold on him yet. It seems to me like he is becoming a glorified Shannon Brown. In other words, he is a good athlete with an average to decent jump shot, who will occasionally score 20 points off the bench, but will always provide great athleticism and energy. Lets compare Brown's numbers this season with Bill Walker's Knicks numbers:
Shannon Brown in 20 Minutes: 7.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 44.3%, 32.4 3PT%, .8 SPG
Bill Walker in 25 Minutes: 11.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 62.2%, 44.8 3PT%, .8 SPG
In about 5 more minutes per game a lot of Walker and Brown's numbers are similar. Walker's field goal percentage, for his entire career, has been ridiculously high, but that is more a product of small sample size than of Walker being the best shooter of all time. Outside of his shooting, their PPG are similar, while rebounds, assists, and steals are all virtually the same. Shannon Brown is also well known for his incredible dunks. This is not to downplay Brown's significance, he stepped in and played a huge role for the Lakers when Kobe went down and his been great off of the bench for them this year, but he is no star. Only time will tell if Walker is truly a future NBA starter or if he is another good NBA athlete.