When you think of the New York Knicks young core, rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Allonzo Trier come to mind. Who doesn’t come to mind? Damyean Dotson.
The Knicks selected Dotson with the 44th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft when Phil Jackson was still the team’s president — before being jettisoned four days later. The Houston product had a quiet rookie season given how first-round pick Frank Ntilikina had eyeballs glued to his every move and Dotson was granted minimal playing time in then-head coach Jeff Hornacek’s rotation.
Averaging just 4.1 points per game in 10.8 minutes a night, Dotson was an underwhelming presence in a bumpy 29-53 Knicks’ season. But he did have a breakout 30-point performance in an April affair with the Miami Heat.
With Kristaps Porzingis missing the 2018-19 season due to a torn ACL, coupled with the Knicks having the youngest roster in the NBA, many youngsters were granted a large chunk of playing time; Dotson was one of them and showed what he’s capable of.
Averaging 10.7 points per game, he was a steady contributor to the team’s offensive attack. He also put forth nine 20-plus points games. Whether it be playing in isolation, shooting off the dribble, sticking the midrange jumper, or playing with aggression, Dotson was a pleasant surprise in a 17-win Knicks’ season.
The most underrated part of the wing’s game is his stout defense. Ranging from his ability to help out on the perimeter, cover the best scorer on the floor, to switching with ease, Damyean Dotson has been one of the Knicks best defenders in recent memory.
Unfortunately for Dotson, head coach David Fizdale was a vital reason for his inability to produce at an even higher level. Throughout the first half of the season, Fizdale shuffled an insane amount of starting fives and rotations, in general, which saw a number of young players get inconsistent playing time. Towards the end of the season, Dotson was granted steadier minutes, but with the Knicks experimenting with several young players, it was difficult for anyone to score, or perform, at a high level on a consistent basis.
So Dotson, a two-way player, has received little to no attention on a rebuilding Knicks team. Why is that? Well, probably because he was a second-round pick, as well as Ntilikina’s struggles and Knox, Robinson, and Trier’s rookie seasons being more captivating. At the same time, those players have flaws in their games.
Knox has shown the ability to score and be an electric presence on the offensive end, but he struggles with his outside jump shot — which he settles for too much — and has a ways to go before becoming a reliable defender; Robinson’s shot-blocking ability, as well as his highlight-reel alley-oops, are surely exciting, but he struggles to do much else offensively and tallies an overwhelming amount of fouls, which offsets his shot blocking; Trier was a spark plug off the bench for Fizdale, but is a streaky shooter and shaky defender; Ntilikina is arguably the Knicks best defender, but he poses no scoring threat and missed nearly half of the 2018-19 season due to injury; Dennis Smith Jr. is an electric source of offense, but an inefficient shooter and a shaky defender.
Dotson’s weakness is his outside shooting. He’s not anemic, but his career 36.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc could use improving. Simultaneously, it’s not a gaping hole in his game to the point where it’s a detrimental liability; he’s the Knicks most complete young player.
Now, Dotson’s growth and role with the team moving forward is a mystery. With great odds in the NBA lottery and $74 million in cap space, the Knicks have the tools to pull off a historic offseason. The lowest pick they can have is five, and there is an overwhelming amount of momentum towards them landing a star free agent, or two, most notably Kevin Durant.
One of the biggest storylines of this season has been Durant potentially leaving the Golden State Warriors for the Knicks in the offseason. Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving has also been long-linked to the Knicks, and there’s discussion of him joining Durant in Manhattan this summer.
Now, regardless of whether one, both, or none of them sign with the Knicks, it’s safe to say that the organization should be able to land a star, or two. In all likelihood, them effortlessly using Porzingis, their best player, as a way to clear cap space by trading him to the Dallas Mavericks indicates that they like their chances of making franchise-altering moves this summer.
Say the Knicks bring in two of the big fish this summer — which include Durant, Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker — every piece of their young core will take on a minimized role. Plus, their first-round draft selection, which could be Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, will likely surpass them in the rotation too. But the young players the Knicks currently have in their possession, such as Knox, Robinson, and Trier, will still play a role in any success they aspire to have in the coming years.
Now, no matter the upside they may have in their respective games, they combined to win 17 games this season, so to think that the Knicks would be in the playoff mix next season if they stayed with them as their driving forces would be silly. With that said, playing behind two stars would make them more effective, and the fact that they endured a challenging rookie season can only help moving forward, from a mental standpoint.
If the Knicks don’t add two wings, Damyean Dotson could very well be starting at the off-guard given his ability to make an impact on both ends. And if he can improve his perimeter game, Dotson could become the modern-day “three-and-D” player, which would be an enormous asset. Robinson is likely the team’s starting center next season, but there’s no guarantee that anyone else starts; next season isn’t going to be another scientific experiment.
Dotson may never grow into a star with the Knicks given the potential for them to pull off an exuberant offseason. But in terms of the players they have for the time being, his play warrants more attention than it has received.