Schmeelk: Who Will Play Where For Knicks This Coming Season?

A Position-By-Position Breakdown Of The Team

John Schmeelk
October 01, 2019 - 1:05 pm
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As Knicks fans get ready for the season, it’s important to look at which players are available at each position on the roster. There are a lot of players who will want a lot of playing time at multiple spots. 

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Given coach David Fizdale’s penchant to preach position-less basketball and the way some players on the roster can swing between positions, I’ve tried to organize these groups as best as possible. I’ve included certain skills each player has in italics at the end of each entry that the coach will have to balance in his lineups. Fizdale will not have easy answers. 

POINT GUARD

Dennis Smith Jr.: Last year’s starter to close out the season, Smith has the highest upside given his athleticism. If the rumors of his reworked shot are true and he improves his overall efficiency (43% FG, 32% 3PT) and defense, Smith can make a real jump. If his shot doesn’t improve and he doesn’t become a consistent player that threatens opposing players on every possession, he might not even win the starting job. (Primary ball-handler, pick-and-roll guard, poor shooter?)

Elfrid Payton: Drafted by Scott Perry in Orlando, offseason reports indicate he will be given every opportunity to win the starting job in training camp. He is a pass-first point guard whose defense is not as good as his reputation. He has never shot above 33% from behind the arc. His strength is getting into the paint and setting up his teammates (7.6 assists per game last year). (Pass-first point guard, poor shooter)

Kadeem Allen: On a two-way contract, Allen is a good defender, but he struggles to run an offense and score the basketball. (Defender)

COMBO GUARD

Frank Ntilikina: Ntilikina has a point guard mentality and the size to play small forward. The question remains where David Fizdale thinks he fits best. If Ntilikina's shooting can get to the league average, his defensive ability would make him a useful rotation player for any team in the league. My guess is that he is used as a wing, secondary ball-handler and switchable defender who can guard positions one through four. (Versatile high-level defender, secondary ball-handler, poor shooter?)

Allonzo Trier: Trier can be the primary ball-handler when he is on the floor, even though he is a score-first guard. His more natural position is shooting guard, but he needs the ball in his hands in order to be successful. He was an extremely efficient scorer in his rookie season but needs to improve his defense and willingness to move the ball. (Shooter, scorer, secondary ball-handler) 

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WINGS

RJ Barrett: The rookie's ideal position is at small forward given his size (6 feet 7 inches, 202 pounds) and lack of side-to-side quickness. The third overall pick in June's draft can play the two, especially offensively, though he will struggle to guard opposing shooting guards. Barrett’s shooting is his most important skill that needs to improve, and if his playmaking progresses, he can play some point forward as the team’s primary ball-handler. (Pick-and-roll ball-handler, scorer, rebounder, poor shooter)

Damyean Dotson: Heading into his third season, Dotson has proven to be a reliable defender and 3-point shooter. Those two skills should give him a prominent role in the rotation. (Defender, shooter)

Wayne Ellington: He is a veteran, catch-and-shoot 3-point specialist who is limited defensively and as a playmaker. (Shooter)

Reggie Bullock: A 3-and-D wing, Bullock is recovering from a back/neck injury. Once he returns during the season, he will fight for rotation minutes. (Shooter)

COMBO FORWARDS

Marcus Morris: He may be better off playing power forward, but he’s capable of playing the three. He can do a little bit of everything: shoot, score one-on-one and defend. On a one-year contract, he will be one of the better players on the roster this year. Morris is likely to be traded by the deadline because he will have the most value. He should be able to win the starting small forward spot out of camp. (All-around player, few weaknesses)

Kevin Knox: Only 20, Knox might be upward of 6-foot-10 by the time he stops growing. All he needs to do is to improve his rebounding, and he will be a full-time power forward. Given the Knicks' current roster construction, Knox is more likely to get minutes at small forward this year. He can shoot the ball but struggles defensively. He showed improvement this summer finishing at the rim and passing, which would help his case for playing time if he can carry that into the regular season. (Shooter, poor defender, off-ball scorer)

Ignas Brazdeikis: The Knicks' second-round pick this year, Brazdeikis flashed shooting and slashing ability in the Summer League. There might not be any playing time available, but he might make Fizdale’s decision tough if he plays well enough. (Shooter)

POWER FORWARDS

Julius Randle: Nearly assured to be a high-volume, efficient scorer, Randle scored more than 21 points per game and had a true-shooting percentage of 60 last season. He will put up big-time numbers, but it remains to be seen if he can do enough of the little things (like play defense) to help the team win games. Nearly certain to be a starter at power forward, Randle will be the Knicks' go-to scoring option this year. (Primary scorer, rebounder)

Taj Gibson: Despite being 34 years old, Gibson is still a very good defensive player, rebounder and leader. If Fizdale can find him time, Gibson will help the team win games. (Defender, rebounder, leader) 

POWER FORWARD/CENTER

Bobby Portis: A new addition this summer, Portis can shoot the ball and stretch his range beyond the 3-point line. Only 24 years old, he is not a good defender and must improve at that end to take the next step as a player. (Shooter, poor defender) 

CENTER

Mitchell Robinson: A 21-year-old shot-blocking and rim-running dynamo, Robinson has All-Defense potential. He is an uncanny shot blocker anywhere on the floor and has the athleticism to switch to defend pick-and-roll plays on the perimeter. (Rim-protecting machine, pick-and-roll rim runner)

You can follow John on Twitter (@Schmeelk) for everything about the Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. You can also find his Knicks Podcast, "The Bank Shot," on most popular podcast platforms. You can hear the most recent episode — a media day reaction -- here.