One of the biggest surprises in the NBA last year was the out-of-nowhere emergence of Langston Galloway, who turned a 10-day contract with the New York Knicks into a place on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He played in 45 games, started 41 of them, and was possibly the lone bright spot in an ugly season.
All that is great, but the Knicks were 17-65. Sometimes it’s easy to look good when you’re playing with high effort on a team going through the motions. For a team rolling out miserable starting lineups including Jason Smith, Cole Aldrich, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Lance Thomas, someone has to throw the ball at the basket before 24 seconds is up.
For an undrafted free agent, Galloway was a nice story. He had a nice run, but not many expected him to be part of the long-term turnaround in New York, especially with a healthy Jose Calderon and the additions of Arron Afflalo and Jerian Grant.
Five games into the new season, and I’m sold on Galloway.
The 45-game sample wasn’t enough, but apparently 50 games has provided the confidence that I never thought twice about during the offseason. The Knicks’ start has been met with tempered optimism. The fans might not be bold enough to say this team can make the playoffs, but I feel I can speak for most of the fan base that individually we kind of love the way these guys are playing (with the exception of Calderon…and maybe Carmelo Anthony as well depending on how they felt about him already).
That doesn’t mean he’s on his path to stardom in the NBA, but based on his 50-game sample, he’s a professional player who’s earned a spot in an NBA rotation. That isn’t restricted to a bad Knicks team or a long career on the forever-tanking Philadelphia 76ers (sorry Jeff!).
Galloway would be able to fit in as a third or fourth guard on most NBA teams, and could hold his own in most of those situations. He might not be ready for the Warriors’ offense without skipping a beat, but he is shooting just about 65 percent from deep so far this year.
He’s doing a great job getting to the basket and has emerged as a top defensive stopper on a team desperate for some individual defensive efforts. That aspect of his game has carried over from last season. SportVU data had opponents shooting less than 40 percent from the field when defended by Galloway, which put him in the 93rd percentile in that area, per ESPN Insider. They also point to his positive steal rate and tremendous ability to hold up in isolation as reasons to be happy with his work on defense.
Galloway isn’t much of a creator offensively, which is why Jerian Grant is closer to overtaking Calderon as the starting point guard despite playing fewer minutes so far this season. At 6’2″ and with a big wingspan, Galloway has a little more versatility and the ability to guard bigger wings when necessary, which has led to a bigger workload. Logging major minutes as the primary ball handler could slow down the offense and stands in the way of him ever finding a starting spot on a contender, although his aversion to turnovers does make up some for his low assist numbers.
The best part of his game projecting forward is that while he’s a secondary ball handler, he puts his stamp on the game without requiring a ton of shots. Five games is five games, but he’s only needed about seven shots per game to get a cool 11 points. That number is buoyed by a ridiculous hot streak from deep, but Galloway is able to score most — if not all — of his points within the flow of the offense, which maybe only impresses me because of watching Mike Woodson iso-ball with Melo and J.R. Smith for three years.
There’s been a lot of concern about Porzingis and Anthony being on different timelines. It’s been talked about enough, and despite the early successes, Porzingis and the rest of this roster will have to dramatically improve in order to win big before Melo’s contract runs out. Galloway is right in the wheelhouse for both options.
I could see a contender in need of a third guard trying to pick him off the Knicks in order to make a postseason run this year. I hope that isn’t the case, because I love what he brings to the table for this Knicks team, and fans should be excited to see what he can develop into down the road. It’d be ambitious to think he has the ceiling offensively to catch up with his defensive game a la Jimmy Butler, but I’m on board with him playing 25-to-30 minutes in the playoffs five years from now when the Latvian Lurch becomes Super-Dirk.
Maybe this is all an overhyped reaction to five pretty nice showings to start the season for a guy playing extra minutes with Afflalo dealing with an injury. It’s totally possible that he returns to where Lou Amundson and Cleanthony Early are — lucky to scrape for any minutes he can get. Somehow, I find that hard to imagine with the effort he’s putting out. Opinions could change with a few rough shooting nights, but for an undrafted free agent who really had to work to make his NBA dreams happen, Galloway has earned a job in New York, no questions asked.