Schmeelk: Who Can Help A Good Team On The Knicks' Roster?

John Schmeelk
March 18, 2019 - 9:32 am

I did an interesting exercise on Twitter yesterday, asking Knicks fans what current player has the best chance of helping an improved roster next season win as many games as possible. The shorter way of asking the question is: Which players on the team are winning players that could help if a star or two (or three) arrive this summer?

If the Knicks don’t add anyone significant, the team is going to be awful again, so debating whether any of the current youngsters can carry a team is a waste of time. None of them appear to be close to being ready to do it.

Here’s my ranking.

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  1. Mitchell Robinson: I’ve written ad nauseam about the Knicks shot blocking, rim running machine. The 20-year-old center (who will turn 21 in April), could be a significant contributor on a winning team today with his ability to block shots all over the court (averaging 4.6 per 36 minutes), switch on defense and finish at the rim. Mitch has the Knicks center position solved for years to come.
  2. Damyean Dotson: The Knicks 2017 second-round pick struggled to get on the court for Jeff Hornacek as a rookie, and then had to fight his way off the bench after being inexplicably benched by David Fizdale earlier in the season. Dotson has proven to be a reliable shooter (.386 3PT%), good one-on-one defender and strong rebounder (5.1 per 36). In his last 13 games, he is averaging 16 points per game while maintaining his efficiency as a good catch and shoot player of screens. He has the second-best net rating (-6.2) on the team of players in the regular rotation after Mitchell Robinson. He would be a good fit as a “three and D” player next to a couple of alphas.
  3. Allonzo Trier: It gets really hard after the first two, and sadly there might not be too many useful players on a winning team after Robinson and Dotson. Trier’s offensive efficiency, however, could help a good team as a sparkplug off the bench. Trier’s .445/.398/.809 shooting and .564 True Shooting percentage show his scoring ability, but his 21.3% usage, along with a minuscule 12.5% assist rate and poor defense could prevent him from being a contributor on a good team.
  4. Dennis Smith Jr.: He’s not good enough to be a starter on a good team, but he has flashed the same tantalizing potential he did at NC State. He finishes well at the rim and can sometimes look like a point guard with good vision that is honestly trying to make his team better. He’ll even flash good defense from time to time. Too often, he looks like a bad decision maker and low-efficiency scorer that gives poor effort on defense. There’s just something missing on a night-to-night basis. Right now, he is not a good player but if he can put it all together he has a shot.
  5. Noah Vonleh: He might have been on top of this list earlier in the season, but his strong three-point shooting from earlier in the season has collapsed to .336. He is still a versatile defender, good rebounder and can score in the post. He could be a valuable backup big man.
  6. Luke Kornet: Kornet can hit the open three, defend the rim, and isn’t deficient at anything where he can’t get on the court. He could survive as the 11th guy on a good team.  
  7. Kadeen Allen: Allen looks like he could be a solid backup point guard in the NBA that distributes, does the little things and scores when he has to. He defends well and has shown he has a chance to be a glue player on a good team. Or he is a D-Leaguer that has outplayed his skill level in a small sample size.
  8. Frank Ntilikina: The Knicks sophomore has suffered through a largely lost second season by not showing enough improvement offensively, then being yo-yoed in and out of roles by the head coach before missing a couple of months with a groin injury. His defensive versatility can give him a role on a championship team, but he needs to become closer to a league average shooter. If he does, he can move into the top three on this list.
  9. DeAndre Jordan: Even though Jordan has shown great progress as a passer and free throw shooter to make him a more complete offensive player, his defense has fallen off to the point that he would not be able to be a full-time starter on a good team. Jordan has a team worst -13.0 Net Rating for a reason.
  10. Kevin Knox: The Knicks rookie is a decent catch-and-shoot player, but he is bad at more or less everything else a basketball player needs to do. He shoots an abysmal 48% at the rim, has an embarrassing 5.7% assist rate, averages just 4.3 rebounds per game and is lost defensively. Aside from Jordan, his pathetic -12.7 net rating is the worst on the team. The Knicks actually almost play opponents evenly (-2.4 net rating) when Knox is on the bench. Knox’s Real-Plus minus that measures a player’s positive impact on the court is the worst in the ENTIRE NBA at -7.18.

Everyone Else: Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Isaiah Hicks, John Jenkins, and Henry Ellenson do not make this list.

You can follow me on Twitter at for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. My most recent podcast is with Steve Popper, who covers the Knicks for Newsday.