The Knicks' Tim Hardaway Jr. (3) and Courtney Lee

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Schmeelk: Breaking Down Knicks Roster As It Stands Now

John Schmeelk
July 27, 2018 - 2:22 pm
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The Knicks roster stands at 17 players, with 16 having some kind of guarantee or being extremely likely to make the roster out of training camp. They also have two players (Isaiah Hicks and Alonzo Trier) on two-way contracts, putting them one short of the maximum allowed 20 to have in camp. In other words, there will be competition, and eventually the front office is going to have to make some kind of decision.

Here’s a quick look at what the roster looks like about two months before the start of training camp.

Point Guards: Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kadeem Allen

Frank Ntilikina: He’s the best defender (it isn’t close) and probably the most unselfish of the group. Two keys for Ntilikina this year will be whether he can maintain an aggressive mindset and whether his shooting will make a significant improvement. He needs to do both to become a threat on offense and cement his place in the starting lineup. With his 6-foot-5 frame and 7-0 wingspan (which might get bigger since he is still growing), he might also see time at shooting guard.

Trey Burke: Burke is by far the best offensive player of the group, and it isn’t close. He hit mid-range jumpers at such a high rate last year (57 percent on jump shots between 16 feet and the 3-point line) that it might be unsustainable. He is undersized and isn’t explosive enough to take defenders off the dribble one-on-one consistently. Strong running the pick-and-roll, Burke will likely be in the rotation and provide a good scoring punch wherever he winds up.

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Emmanuel Mudiay: Mudiay has a lot of work to do despite his natural athleticism. He struggles defensively, shooting and finishing at the rim. If Fizdale and his staff can turn Mudiay into an effective NBA player, it will put a real feather in their cap in terms of player development.

Kadeem Allen: Allen is more of a combo guard who can defend and score. He was on a two-way contract with the Celtics last year and could be headed for the G League at 26 years old. (According to reports, his contract is not guaranteed.)

Shooting Guards: Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Ron Baker, Alonzo Trier

Courtney Lee: Lee is a veteran who can still shoot. He can defend and knows how to play. It’s possible the Knicks will decide to move him to a contender for salary-cap relief next summer. If he is here, he’ll play major minutes.

Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway is also likely to play a lot of small forward, like last season. He was asked to score one-on-one more last year, and his efficiency crumbled, shooting just 42 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. He also missed 25 games due to injury last year and needs to take another step in his development. His contract (three years, $54 million) makes him difficult to trade.

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Ron Baker: A leftover from the Phil Jackson regime, Baker should be back from his shoulder injury by training camp. He can defend and knows what he is doing with the ball, but his shooting and playmaking need to improve. You might also see him at point guard some.

Alonzo Trier: A rookie scorer on a two-way contract, Trier can put the ball in the basket, but he needs to show what else he can do. 

Small Forwards: Kevin Knox, Mario Hezonja, Lance Thomas, Damyean Dotson

Kevin Knox: The ninth overall pick in this year's draft, Knox showed a litany of offensive skills for a 6-9 player at the NBA Summer League. All the tools seem to be there for the Kentucky product to potentially grow into a No. 1 option on offense one day. The Knicks list Knox at small forward, but he could be a perfect mobile power forward in the modern NBA.

Mario Hezonja: A former fifth overall pick of the Magic in 2015, Hezonja will try to resurrect his career with the Knicks. He needs to become a more consistent shooter (career 42 percent on field goals and 33 percent on 3s) and defender, and use his athletic and physical gifts far better than he has in the past. Hezonja can also play small-ball power forward, a role he excelled in with Orlando.

Lance Thomas: Like Hezonja and Knox, Thomas might be better off at power forward in the new, miniature NBA. He is the Knicks' best forward defender, can hit the open 3 and is a good leader in the locker room. He could also be a trade target for other contending teams next year.

Damyean Dotson: Doston looks like your perfect 3-and-D NBA wing who can also rebound the ball, but he was underwhelming in the Summer League. Dotson has to be a more consistent shooter and offer a more complete game to earn minutes ahead of the more veteran players on the team.

Power Forwards: Kristaps Porzingis, Noah Vonleh, Isaiah Hicks

Kristaps Porzingis: He is recovering from an ACL injury, and the Knicks should have a firmer timetable for his return in September. The team should not rush back their franchise player and make sure he is 100 percent before he hits the court. His future is likely at center

Noah Vonleh: Signed this week, Vonleh will only turn 23 in August despite being the ninth overall pick back in 2014. Very long at 6-9, he will be playing for his fourth NBA team as he still tries to find his niche in the league. Vonleh's best chance is as a rebounder and defender who can also finish at the rim and hit an occasional open jumper.

Isaiah Hicks: The Knicks' second two-way contract player is entering his second year with that designation. He has yet to show what NBA level skills he can present on a consistent basis.

Centers: Enes Kanter, Joakim Noah, Mitchell Robinson, Luke Kornet

Enes Kanter: An excellent rebounder, especially on the offensive end with offensive skills in the post, Kanter will fill up the box score on a nightly basis. His defense, however, hurts the team immensely whenever he is in the game. Kanter is on the final year of his contract.

Joakim Noah: Noah has two years left on his albatross megadeal but he can still contribute as a defender and ball mover if he can stay healthy. There’s still some belief the team might use the stretch provision and buy him out, which would be a mistake unless the money is needed to secure a star in free agency.

Mitchell Robinson: A mystery man drafted by the Knicks in the second round, Robinson showed all the raw tools in the Summer League (13 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, 67 percent on field goals) that he did coming out of high school. He has a bright future as a rim protector, rebounder and rim runner, and could be a steal for the Knicks. He is also very raw, and his rookie year should serve as an excellent learning experience.

Luke Kornet: A two-way player for the Knicks last season, Kornet can hit a 3 and block a shot. He needs to show what else he can do to earn time in the rotation.

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