With rumors beginning to circulate that the Knicks are offering Renaldo Balkman in trade discussions, the opportunity has arrived to clarify that neither the Knicks' putrid record nor Balkman's per game productivity is a fair indicator of what he would bring to the table in a new environment.
That said, the first thing to do in any appraisal of Balkman is to take the Knicks' current 8-22 mark and Balkman's 2.5 points and 2.8 boards per game and forget them. Because this is a guy who could either be a nice young part to add on a rebuilding team or a potentially capable role player and energy guy to add to a decent squad.
On a Knicks team where the scapegoats change daily and the lineups change with only slightly more regularity, Balkman hasn't been able to get consistent minutes from Isiah Thomas. He hasn't gotten the chance to establish a rhythm or a niche for himself this season, and in some regards, it has appeared that he may have regressed from his progress at the tail end of last season. That said, there is still plenty to work with here.
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And that is primarily because, unlike many of his teammates in New York, the kid doesn't mind working. He works as hard as if not harder on the defensive end of the floor than anybody on the group of individuals currently inhabiting the Big Apple. At 6-foot-8 and 208 pounds, Balkman has the length and speed to become a very versatile defender, as he can guard three and possibly even four positions if necessary. Undoubtedly, he needs to refine his work defensively and be careful (as every young player must) of not being guilty of over-zealousness, but from the effort he puts in on the floor, it seems evident that Balkman wants to be a good defender in this league. That on its own is more than a lot of players around the Association can say in today's game. That Balkman has the physical tools to become that defender only makes him a more appetizing prospect.
Without question, the neophyte (tip of the cap to the beloved Walt Frazier) has far more work to do offensively. He can't shoot the ball from the outside at all and isn't all that much of a threat with the ball in his hands in general. That said, on a team with a point guard that could run the break effectively, this kid would score 12 points a game on dunks alone. He understands his limitations at this point, and while having the confidence to believe in oneself is important, so is understanding what one can and can't do for the good of the team. Balkman is more than happy to fly up and down the floor, fill lanes, set screens, crash the boards and take all the garbage dunks and putbacks he can get. The fact that he does average 9.3 rebounds per 40 minutes is only further testament to this hard work.
Chances are, Balkman would fit best on a rebuilding team like the Kings, to whom the Knicks have reportedly offered him as part of their efforts to acquire Ron Artest. Balkman's game still needs plenty of refinement, and while it remains my contention that he could successfully grow into the role of being an effective seventh or more likely eighth man on a contending team, he likely isn't ready to make that jump yet. But he is a guy with a goofy look, a cool-sounding name (just say "Renaldo Balkman" to yourself a few times over, particularly the "Renaldo" part) and the type of blue-collar work ethic that will make him an immediate fan favorite virtually anywhere he plays. There is a reason the fans in New York are calling him "Taz" these days. When he sees the court, that is.
If Renaldo Balkman can end up in a place where he will see the court with some regularity, he will continue to develop into a very legitimate NBA basketball player. And he will pay dividends for a contending team one day.
He just needs that chance.