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Schmeelk: Knicks' Second-Half Goals This Season

Why You Should Watch The Knicks

John Schmeelk
February 20, 2019 - 1:51 pm

The Knicks begin the second half of their season on Friday night. The Knicks have 24 games remaining on their schedule, and even though all hope for a run at the playoffs is gone there are still things the team can accomplish through the season’s final three months.

Player Development

This was the most important goal for the Knicks organization at the start of the season, and it remains so now. No matter where the Knicks finish in the draft lottery, and who they manage to sign in free agency, further development from their young pieces can only help them moving forward. Whether they are used as role players alongside Kevin Durant, as pieces in a trade for Anthony Davis, or starters on a young rebuilding team next season, they are going to be vitally important.

The primary players the Knicks need to worry about developing are the ones they have signed beyond this season: Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson (non-guaranteed deal), Allonzo Trier (team option) and Mitchell Robinson. Players on expiring contracts or non-guaranteed deals unlikely to be back shouldn’t be taking minutes away from any of the above players.

Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Lance Thomas shouldn’t get regular rotation minutes anymore if everyone on the roster is healthy. Those small forward minutes should be going to Damyean Dotson, Kevin Knox and even Frank Ntilikina. DeAndre Jordan is likely to remain the starter, but Luke Kornet should get his minutes at center too. As for Noah Vonleh, the Knicks will likely keep him as part of the rotation since there’s a chance the Knicks try to bring him back next season.

Here’s what fans should hope the team’s youngsters get better at the second half of the season:

Dennis Smith Jr: Consistent focus, constant aggression on offense, decision making, off-ball defense and improved shooting from the free throw line and the three-point line (getting the hitch out of his shot is likely an offseason project).

Frank Ntilikina: An improved jumper, a more aggressive mindset on offense, playing better off the ball, staying healthy, not fouling as much defensively.

Kevin Knox: Everything. More consistent shooting, better shot creation/selection in half court, better passing, better defense, better rebounding.

Mitchell Robinson: Increasing minutes, continuing to stay out of foul trouble, improved free throw shooting.

Damyean Dotson: Better off-ball defense, more consistent shooting inside the three-point line, getting a consistent volume of shot attempts.

Allonzo Trier: Better defense, fewer long twos, shot selection, be more willing passer, consistent offensive output game to game

MORE: Knicks To Sign John Jenkins To To 2-Year Contract

Develop a Play Style

Unlike what Kenny Atkinson was able to do while he coached a losing Nets team, David Fizdale hasn’t been able to establish exactly how his team wants to play offensively and defensively. Roster changes, inconsistent rotations, and the team’s youth have prevented Fizdale from getting his team to play in a particular style in any type of consistent basis.

On defense, the Knicks have struggled so much on pick and roll coverage that they continue to play more and more zone defense, especially with Mitchell Robinson and Luke Kornet playing together in the front court. The team does not have a consistent style, or a well-executed plan on most nights. Things have gotten better in recent weeks since the team traded away two of their worst defenders in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter (and Emmanuel Mudiay got hurt) but it would be more encouraging if the team didn’t have to play a zone defense, which isn’t sustainable for a good team.

Offensively, despite preaching a fast-paced attack with a lot of three-point attempts, the Knicks are 21st in the league in three-point attempts per game, and 16th in pace at 100 possessions per game. With players that can shoot the three at every position, except Jordan and Robinson that can stretch the floor vertically as rim runners, the Knicks should be able to play four out and one in, and get up a ton of three-pointers. It should also provide space for Dennis Smith Jr. to run a lot more screen and roll.

Maximize Draft Position

The Knicks have been horrid all year, and the worst thing that can happen in the final weeks of the season is to win a couple of games and finish with 17 wins instead of 15, and drop to 3rd or 4th in the lottery standings instead of being 1st or 2nd. Even though the odds for the top four slots is identical for teams finishing first through third, with a shallow draft class falling down to the fifth, sixth or seventh spot in the draft could be disastrous in finding a top player. Obviously, this Knicks won’t, nor they should they try to lose games, but math needs to be on their side on lottery night on May 14th.

Be An Attractive Destination

The Knicks will never win enough games to be an attractive destination to free agents, but there are things they can do aside from winning the draft lottery to make players want to come to New York. The aforementioned play style can be a difference maker for some players. Seeing youngsters like Dennis Smith Jr. blossom could attract some people. But most importantly, not having any more dysfunction is essential. The Porzingis and Kanter stuff from earlier in the year can't repeat itself.

You can follow me on Twitter at and listen to my latest episode of the Bank Shot Podcast with Brian Mahoney talking Knicks. You can also subscribe to my podcast on iTunes.