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Biggest Questions Facing the Knicks’ Summer League Team

Photo: Anthony Causi

Vegas awaits the Knicks, ready to welcome their young and inexperienced players. What are the most important aspects of the team to keep an eye on?

Earlier this afternoon, the New York Knicks’ Summer League roster was released to the public. To the surprise of no one, Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, and Kevin Knox are the big-time names. That said, this is among the more impressive Summer League rosters that the Knicks have put out in recent years. Unfortunately for fans, we won’t get to see David Fizdale on the sideline quite yet. Reigning NBA G League Coach of the Year, Mike Miller, will be on the sideline coaching the youngsters.

While tuning into the games, here are a few things to watch out for.


Projected Depth Chart

PG: Frank Ntilikina, Tony Taylor, Tyrius Walker

SG: Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier, Michael Gbinije, Billy Garrett Jr.

SF: Kevin Knox, Troy Williams, Juwan Howard Jr.

PF: Isaiah Hicks, Paul Watson, Daniel Ochefu, Justin Harper

C: Luke Kornet, Mitchell Robinson

Will Frank Ntilikina step it up and become a leader?

The eighth-overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft will be participating in his first Summer League since joining the NBA. Ntilikina is expected to take a leap forward and show improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, he’s already a premier perimeter defender—his status as the best defender in the league in pick-and-roll situations is well-established.

Ntilikina averaged 5.9 points and 3.2 assists over 21.9 minutes in 78 games during his rookie campaign. He led the Knicks in assists 12 times, had 13 double-figure scoring games, and two double-figure assist games (via Basketball-Reference).

Be on the lookout for improved ball handling and dribble-drive penetration from Ntilikina. These were two major red flags that Ntilikina himself said he needed to improve upon when the season ended. In glimpses last season, we saw how much better the team was when the French Prince was more aggressive in getting to the basket. Let’s hope he steps it up during Summer League and becomes the floor general that the Knicks badly need.

Whole Team Dot: how does Dotson perform with a bigger role?

A career-high 30-point, 11-rebound against the Miami Heat last season had fans drooling about the potential of Damyean Dotson, the 44th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Dotson averaged just 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds over 10.8 minutes in 44 games for the Knicks last season. In 13 starts for the Westchester Knicks, Dotson posted 18.2 points and six rebounds over 35.3 minutes, per RealGM. This leaves us with the question: how will Dotson perform with a bigger role?

The 24-year-old played two seasons at the University of Oregon and two seasons at University of Houston. Esteemed as a sharpshooter with surprising rebounding skills, Dotson will have a chance to thrive with a larger and more defined role. Paired with Ntilikina, the two should perform admirably on the defensive end, but have some serious work to do on the offensive end. Much to the delight of the fanbase, Ntilikina, Dotson, Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, and others have been working out with Coach Fizdale on a daily basis. Will Dotson live up to the hype that was exacerbated by his strong effort against the Heat, or will he falter?

School of Hard Knox: Will the rookie struggle or enter the league on a hot note?

Selected by New York with the ninth-overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Knox played one season at the University of Kentucky, averaging a team-high 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists over 32.4 minutes in 37 games.

The 18-year-old has experience being the man, which should excite many Knicks fans. Standing 6’9” with a 7’0” wingspan and a 36.5 inch vertical, Knox brings some much-needed athleticism to the wing positions that the roster sorely lacked last season.

Knox harped on the need to improve his ball-handling skills during the pre-draft process. He also mentioned that he needs to improve his defense in pick-and-roll situations. These are two attributes that Knicks fans should look out for while watching the Summer League games. It will be interesting to watch what kind of role Knox envisions for himself within this team. Although Knox was the man at Kentucky, will he bring that same swagger to the Summer League courts?

What will we see from Mitchell Robinson? Is he legit or just highlight material?

Something of an enigma at this stage, the 36th overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft skipped going to college in order to train for the combine—which he also managed to skip. That said, Robinson possesses tantalizing potential.

Standing 7’0” tall with a 7’4” wingspan and weighing 225 pounds, Mitchell Robinson has the body of a pro. Yes, he needs to grow into his body a bit more, but you can’t teach his athleticism.

Once ranked a top-10 high school player in the country, fans should keep an eye out for Robinson during the Summer League. According to Robinson, he never played pick-up during the year he trained for the draft. This is a massive red flag for coaches and players alongside him. Fans should expect a very raw prospect that is capable of a few highlight plays a game, if he gets the opportunity to play. Besides that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know any set plays or defensive schemes. Will fans get to see a legit player, potentially someone that can become the steal of the draft? Or will fans get a glimpse of reality, with Robinson needing time in the G League?

Too influenced by the NBA. Seinfeld re-runs on TBS. Mad Man.

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