Allonzo Trier passes the ball against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Capital One Arena.

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Schmeelk: Unlikely Knicks Rookie Making Impact

John Schmeelk
October 05, 2018 - 1:52 pm
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Allonzo Trier showed his scoring ability in the summer league, averaging 17 points per game on 45% shooting in 31 minutes per game, but has taken his game to another level in the NBA preseason.

There’s been understandable hype around the Knicks two 2018 draft picks, first-round pick Kevin Knox and second-round pick Mitchell Robinson. Both played extremely well in Summer league and have all the upside that anyone could ask for. In the preseason, however, Knox is averaging just 10 points per game, and Mitchell Robinson will miss some time with an injured ankle.

It’s Allonzo Trier, an undrafted rookie on a two-way contract out of Arizona, that has dominated preseason. He is averaging 19 points per game in just under 24 minutes per game. He’s shooting 58% from the field, has made two of five threes and has made all 14 of his free throws. The only blemish on his record is his three turnovers a game.

Put bluntly, Trier can score. It was a proven skill out of Arizona where he averaged 18 points per game on 50% shooting as a junior. If not for dual positive tests for a performance-enhancing drug called Ostarine and resulting suspensions, he would have been a second-round selection. The Knicks quickly offered him a two-way contract after the draft concluded and he was still available.

Trier showed his scoring ability in the summer league, averaging 17 points per game on 45% shooting in 31 minutes per game, but has taken his game to another level in the NBA preseason. His ability to create contact and get to the free throw line has been his most impressive skill, along with his mid-range jump shot.

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Trier’s twitter handle is @ISO_ZO and so far it has been quite fitting. Much like in summer league, Trier likes to shoot and he isn’t shy about jacking them up. He gets most of his looks isolation, after a lot of dribble moves, hesitations, and crossovers. He is a ball-stopper, which is fine if he is scoring as efficiently as he is, though that is unlikely to continue as his perimeter shooting will likely regress some.

Scoring in those one-on-one situations isn’t ideal as an overall plan for an offense, but it is a useful skill for a player to have in certain situations. Trier could be an excellent scoring spark off the bench, or even eventually a starter at some point in the future if he learns to score more in the flow of the offense. When a team is struggling to score, has a mismatch or is playing against an excellent defense, sometimes a one on-one-scorer is needed.

While under the terms of a two-way contract, Trier is only allowed to spend 45 days with the NBA club. If he continues to score at such a high level, the Knicks will have to find a spot for him on the roster full time, which will mean cutting loose another player with a guaranteed contract.

Emmanuel Mudiay is an obvious potential waiver move given his poor play in the preseason and last season. He still struggles on both ends of the floor, is on the last year of his contract, and will be behind Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke on the depth chart. Trier could slide into that role seamlessly.

The other option involves Joakim Noah. Despite not being with the team, Noah is still under contract in some kind of stalemate with the club. The only logical conclusion is that the Knicks want him to give some money back to secure the buyout of his contract, and Noah is balking at that idea. The organization is wise to play hardball, as every dollar of cap space his contract can yield could land an asset far more valuable than anything Noah provided the franchise.

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If Noah wants out of his current deal so he can play meaningful minutes elsewhere, a small giveback should not be out of the question. The Knicks should ask for around 20% of the money remaining on his deal, seven million dollars, which is less than 10% of the total value of his contract.

Of course, all of this depends on Trier continuing to play near the level he is. Any reasonable fan should still be in “wait and see” mode given the small sample size of two preseason games. The rookie will try to give the Knicks no choice but to sign him to a fully guaranteed NBA contract by continuing his strong play. Then the Knicks will have a tough decision to make.

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