The New York Knicks spent their offseason going after plan C, D, E, F, and G after missing out on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. With money to spend and the roster in need of an upgrade, something had to be done. But it’s not so much the players they chose, it’s the positions in which they paid millions for. The question looming for David Fizdale for the 2019-20 NBA season is; who plays where and gets what minutes?
For a team that ended the season with the worst record (17-65) in the NBA, the New York Knicks need stability, not confusion. But that’s exactly what they will have when Training Camp opens this fall.
It begins with the PG position. What was the point of signing Elfrid Payton (2yr-$16M) when they already have Dennis Smith Jr and Frank Ntilikina? It’s clear that Ntilikina (5.7 and 2.8 assists) will not live up to Phil Jackson’s hope who drafted him 8th overall in 2017. But adding Payton and paying him $8 million to either start or sit behind Smith is not fair.
In 2018, Payton averaged 10.6 points and 7.6 assists in 29.8 minutes while starting for the New Orleans Pelicans. On the other side, Smith came over in the Kristaps Porzingis deal and averaged 14.7 points and 5.4 assists while playing 28.6 minutes. So, who gets the fair share of time running the team?
Drafting RJ Barrett was a must but what happens with Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier? And then to make the backcourt more crowded, they signed Wayne Ellington. That’s four capable players who will fight for minutes when they played a fair share in 2018. Barrett will start and will look to become the face of the franchise now. But where will the others fit in?
Trier played well last year and averaged 10.9 points while shooting .448 percent in 22.8 minutes per game. Ellington has been a reserve the majority of his career so a backseat is nothing new to him. However, he can be seen as instant offense off the bench, something the Knicks crave. In 2018, Ellington averaged 10.3 points in 25 minutes while shooting .373 percent from three-point territory. While Dotson has been between the NBA and the G League, that doesn’t mean he can’t produce. In 2018, he averaged 10.7 points in 27.7 minutes for the Knicks.
Here is where the New York Knicks will really run into problems–the frontcourt. Reggie Bullock (11.3 points) is a capable scorer but Kevin Knox (12.8 points) proved his worth last season. Why toy with a player’s growth like that? Was Bullock needed? No. The reason for that is, let Knox start and swing a player like Ellington behind Knox instead of paying Bullock $4.1M. Wasted money here.
At the PF position is where the Knicks spent their entire offseason trying to improve. Getting Julius Randle (3yr-$62.1M) was great. Last season, while with the Pelicans, Randle put up All-Star numbers (21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds). His deal was manageable and provided the Knicks with a low post threat. However, the Knicks got greedy and that greed could cost them on-court and locker room issues if not managed properly.
After Randle, Steve Mills had a vision of one of the deepest front lines in the NBA. Randle wasn’t enough. The Knicks went out and grabbed Marcus Morris (1yr $15M) and Taj Gibson (2yr $20M). Nice rotation but who gets the time? Gibson (10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds) played 24.1 minutes while with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. Morris (13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds), for whatever reason chose the Knicks when he played 27.9 minutes for the playoff-contending Boston Celtics last season. What was the logic here, no one knows?
At Center, this is the one position the Knicks may have got right. Mitchell Robinson is going to be a beast in a year or two. But the Knicks needed that insurance behind him. With the addition of Bobby Portis (1yr-$15M), they got exactly that. In 2018, Robinson averaged 7.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. Portis (14.2 and 6.2 rebounds) while with the Washington Wizards last season will more than likely see less than his normal 27.4 minutes. That’s a huge order when he’s being paid $15M.
The New York Knicks did what they had to do to salvage an offseason that didn’t go as planned. The issue with grabbing for straws blindly is that you have no idea what you may come up with. Once again, they have too many PG’s, a heavy load of SG’s, and entirely too many PF’s. Getting players on the floor will not be a problem for Fizdale this coming season. It’s keeping them on the floor and breaking whatever chemistry a unit has that will cause issues. Some of these guys are veterans and picked the Knicks to play. But they also have young kids who are up and coming and need their fair share of time.
Things in New York might look bad now, but if Fizdale cannot figure out a solid rotation, it could get a lot worse, quick.