The last preseason game could have regular season implications for players on the fringe of the roster.
To nobody’s surprise, the New York Knicks have looked absolutely dreadful through four preseason games.
While Jeff Hornacek and Scott Perry promised a larger emphasis on defense during the offseason, the team has yet to hold an opponent under triple-digit points this preseason. With the defensive improvement still up in the air, the final roster and allocation of minutes haven’t been solidified either.
Earlier this week, the Knicks threw a loop in final roster predictions by signing former Jazz/Wizards point guard, Trey Burke. In addition to the signing, Hornacek revealed that the competition for minutes at center was still “really close.” These few late preseason developments could play into larger storylines for the regular season. With Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina likely out tonight, we’ll get another look at some of the fringe pieces for New York.
Will Trey Burke stick around?
On Wednesday, the Knicks inked former Michigan hero Trey Burke to a deal that brings their roster count to 15 guaranteed contracts. While Joakim Noah is suspended for the first 12 games, the Knicks will have a short period of time where they able to carry 16 players, but will need to waive one once the suspension period concludes. All signs point to the potential waive victim being Burke. Should the Knicks choose to waive him, they still own his G-League rights, and he could be a valuable developmental piece. While his measly 2016 averages of 5.8 points and 1.8 assists don’t exactly jump off the page, Burke is still optimistic about his chances landing on the final roster:
“ I believe that I will make the roster even if no one else does so we’ll see what happens.”
ESPN NY reporter Ian Begley appears to think differently:
Update: Trey Burke doesn't seem like a strong candidate to make the Knicks' regular season roster. Knicks will now have his D League rights.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 11, 2017
With the aforementioned Ntilikina injury, Burke could get a decent chunk of minutes behind Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack, who haven’t exactly provided the Knicks with anything to look forward to at the point guard position this season. This could be Trey Burke’s only chance to prove himself to Hornacek and the coaching staff that he deserves a spot on the roster before the season starts. But, barring injuries or unsatisfactory play from either Jack or Sessions, he could very well find himself on the roster mid-season. If the Knicks are serious about giving Burke a chance at making the final roster, I expect to see him play frequently on Friday night.
How will the center position shake out?
It appears that Kyle O’Quinn, Enes Kanter, Willy Hernangómez, and Joakim Noah are still vying for their share of minutes at the center position. Hornacek cites the guy who “plays good defense, rolls to the basket every time and play unselfishly” will end up with the starting spot. While Noah is suspended for the first 12 games of the season and has somewhat already accepted his role as a bench player, I think the spot comes down to Kanter and Hernangómez. Kanter had a decent Knicks debut against the Nets, tallying 17 points and getting to the free throw line ten times, but his post defense leaves something to be desired. While he may have a more polished offensive game than Hernangómez, Willy should be starting alongside KP to continue to develop that chemistry. Kanter is familiar with a sixth-man role off the bench, and his scoring ability could be valuable for the second unit.
Will we get another long look at Damyean Dotson?
In what has been a pretty dreary preseason, rookie Damyean Dotson has been the single bright spot for the Knicks. As he looks to assert himself in the rotation, he put together a brilliant performance against the Houston Rockets, tallying 17 points in 26 minutes. The rookie has received high praise from teammate Tim Hardaway Jr.:
“He’s a football player…He’s going to give you his all every single possession, strong, athletic, doesn’t take anything from nobody…. It’s tough scoring against him. He’s kind of an aggravating defender. He gets his hands into the passing lanes, deflects the basketballs, really gets up into you when you have the ball in your hand and forces you to do things on his terms.”
Intense defender? Great physical profile? Sounds a lot like what we first thought of Iman Shumpert, and many Knicks fans have begun making comparisons between the two. While Dotson may be able to defend like Shumpert, his offensive ability is much more developed. The Knicks already know what they have in Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. In the final preseason game, I’m expecting the Knicks to take a closer look at Damyean Dotson being a potentially vital piece to their young core. As the team struggles through the season, they could look Dotson’s way for consistent production behind the three point line. He should get some serious burn against the Wizards.
The result of this game means nothing. I’m most interested to see if Trey Burke can put together a performance that at least makes the Knicks coaching staff say, “Hey, maybe this guy should get a look for the final roster.” I want to see Willy Hernangómez take the next step to locking down the starting center position by playing better post defense and focusing on his finishing around the rim. This game can provide Damyean Dotson the opportunity to prove that his previous performance against the Rockets wasn’t a fluke. This may be the last good opportunity for a few different guys with the season swiftly approaching.
UPDATE: 6:41 pm EST.
ESPN’s Ian Begley confirms that Porzingis and Ntilikina are out for tonight, also reports they’ll practice, so it looks like (optimistically) both young Euros are a go for Thursday’s season opener.
— Brendan Duball, staff writer