Charlie Zegers and Bryan Gibberman lay down some pressing thoughts headed into the regular season—specifically on the rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, and more from Monday Musings.
Charlie Zegers: Five preseason games in the books, and what have we learned?
My biggest takeaways, in no particular order:
- Frank Ntilikina is the Knicks’ best point guard;
- Allonzo Trier is a player;
- Mitchell Robinson is going to make a lot of players look silly this season—including himself;
- Things got harder for Kevin Knox when he was matched up against actual NBA players;
- Mario Hezonja wasn’t terribly impressive, but he had a few moments;
- Noah Vonleh deserved a roster spot;
- Emmanuel Mudiay did not;
- Enes Kanter is the Knicks’ best, most efficient scorer—by a pretty significant margin.
I thought that list was on point in its entirety, I’ll start off addressing Hezonja and Knox.
Hezonja was probably what I was most disappointed in during the preseason. He never really got into a good rhythm and the Knicks could use the version of him from the last couple months of last season. If the struggles continue, I wonder if we see Damyean Dotson get some of the small-ball 4 minutes with the second unit.
Knox’s limited handle stood out. When he isn’t making outside shots, it’s going to be tough for him to have an impact in the halfcourt. Since his offense is going to be inconsistent, where you’re looking for Knox to contribute on a nightly basis early on is defensive rebounding, in transition, and giving a strong effort on defense.
Charlie: I saw a couple of flashes with Hezonja, including some nice interior passing, especially on the break. There was one give-and-go—possibly with Vonleh—that ended in a really emphatic slam. More of that would be nice.
Point Vonleh? pic.twitter.com/quI6v1B51p
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 5, 2018
I’m not sure how Dotson fits. He’s had some nice moments too, but seems to be sort of an afterthought in Fizdale’s rotation at this point. I really like him as a player (but I’ll admit—I tend to wildly overrate the guys I see playing for the Westchester Knicks).
Speaking of which—there’s been a fair amount of talk about the G League club and how the Knicks might use it to develop some of these guys. I have a few guesses. On draft night, I said I expected Trier to be one of the G League’s leading scorers. I may have underrated him. He’ll break camp with the varsity squad; the clock on his limited two-way contract doesn’t start ticking until Westchester opens camp in late October. I suspect they’ll clear a roster spot for him before too long. (I’m assuming Courtney Lee is gone well before the break and Trier will take his spot).
I’ve also seen suggestions that Mitchell Robinson could log some time in White Plains, but I don’t see how that helps his development. Sure, it’d be great to get him regular minutes, but against G League competition he won’t face much of a challenge. The bigs at that level don’t have anything approaching his combination of size and athleticism; if they did, they’d be playing in the NBA. Instead, you get the likes of Sim Bhullar and Jordan Bachynski—guys whose primary basketball skill is “wow, you’re freakishly tall.”
Robinson needs reps against NBA-level bigs, guys he won’t be able to out-run and out-leap and wily veterans who will head-fake him into foul trouble every game.
Bryan: I don’t mind if they send Robinson down for some games when the Knicks are off to get 30 minutes of run compared to the 12-18 I’d expect him to receive at the NBA level. Robinson showed enough growth mentally from Summer League to the preseason on defense to warrant a rotation spot.
Speaking of Courtney Lee—what are they going to do while he’s with the Knicks? Is he going to be getting backup wing minutes? I’d like Fizdale to mix it up a bit and not necessarily have the same guys play every night. I don’t think it’s right to just outright bench Lee. I wouldn’t mind seeing Dotson, Lee, Ron Baker, and Trier all get their turns.
Charlie: Lee returned to practice over the weekend and will reportedly be available against the Hawks on Wednesday, so I guess we’ll see soon enough. He won’t wind up on the Joakim Noah “don’t call us, we’ll call you” plan—he’s too much of a pro for that.
I still think Lee gets moved for an expiring deal, but until then, I think there are minutes for all those guys, especially given the fact that Knox will inevitably find himself in foul trouble.