Another week, another batch of losses. There isn’t really much to say at the moment other than the Knicks are well and truly limping their way through final few games of a season to forget.
There are a surprising few upsides to a campaign that has yielded just 14 wins, the main factor being that some of the youngest and least experienced players on the team have put up some pretty nice stat lines here and there throughout the season. The only issue this year has been the lack of veteran displays, with guys who would be fringe players at best on other teams getting about 30 minutes plus in New York.
Eight players age 24 or under have played in more than 40 games for the Knicks this year, with rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson featuring in more than 60. So, based off their 2018-19 campaign, who have earned themselves a big role in next season’s plans, and who is facing the boot from MSG. Let’s dive in.
One Up: Damyean Dotson
It really has been a breakout year for Dot, whose shooting has been a godsend for the Knicks during tough spells on the hardwood. A second-round pick in 2017 after playing all four years of college ball at Oregon and Houston, Dotson fed off drips and drabs during his rookie season, and finally got the chance to show what he could do during the final few games of the season. He dropped 30 on Miami before recording double figures for the final three outings of the campaign.
This season he has well and truly stepped up his game. Having hit double figures on only five occasions as a rook, he bested that by doing it in his first nine games consecutively back in October/November. He has the third highest 3-point percentage on the team, trailing only Allonzo Trier and Kadeem Allen, in which he has played far more game than both of them (as per www.basketball-reference.com). Rarely ineffective, Dotson has made the shooting guard position his at MSG, and he will likely be at least the backup option next season.
One Up: Emmanuel Mudiay
This one might drive Knicks fans crazy, but face the facts, Mudiay has had quite an impressive season. The best points per game tally on the team with 14.8, Mudiay has not stuffed the stat sheet, contrary to many people’s opinion, and has proven to be a great closer, with the big win over Milwaukee in December a casing example. David Fizdale has continued to play Mud through both the good, the bad and the ugly, and with more minutes tends to yield more points, but I don’t think Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntilikina or even Allonzo Trier would have put up the number of Mudiay this season.
Will Mudiay be here next season? I doubt it, but it might not be without the want of trying. Fizdale clearly likes Mudiay a lot, and whether he can bring him back at a modest price remains to be seen, but I imagine the point guard will command a lot more on the open market. Dropping 32 a piece on Atlanta and Phoenix, and a career high of 34 at Charlotte, Mudiay can clearly score well for guy at the one, and teams will be looking at that when it comes to the off-season.
One Up: Mitchell Robinson
Another second round gem, Mitchell Robinson has been smashing record after record this season. He smashed the Kristaps Porzingis’ franchise rookie record for blocks, the franchise record for the most consecutive games with a block which previously belonged to Patrick Ewing, and most recently, becoming the first Knick rookie to post 19 points and 21 rebounds since Willis Reed in 1965. He currently ranks second in the NBA for blocks per game, trailing only Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers.
That’s enough stats, but with our very own eyes we have seen Mitchell Robinson take the lead by storm on both offence and defence, swatting balls left and right before throwing it down with authority at the other end. He has to sort his foul troubles out, but for a guy who didn’t play a lick of college ball, Robinson has a very, very bright future in New York.
One Down: Mario Hezonja
Oh, Mario. Admittedly, you’re not a bad player, but there’s no way on God’s green earth you’re getting a new deal after this season’s one-year tryout in the Big Apple. Averaging 8.1 points in 19.9 minutes, it’s not exactly an inspiring return for a former 5th overall pick in his fourth season in the league. He’s never spent more than 10 consecutive games in the starting five and has struggled to keep up any sort of form throughout the season.
His start to life in New York wasn’t really all that bad. He recorded double figures in nine of his first 15 games of the season, but since then has only dropped ten or more points in a game on 13 occasions in the following 39 outings. He can be interestingly sporadic with his displays, but the one quality game in eight or nine is no good for a big deal in Manhattan.
One Down: Frank Ntilikina
I’m sorry Knicks Nation, I’m sorry. It’s like an emotional break-up from someone you know is a great person, but keeps letting you down time and time again. I’m not ‘done’ with Frank, but offensively he is just dire and seems to lack all sorts of aggression around the hoop. Is defensive IQ is impressive, but being good at one does not make up for being awful at the other, similarly to how a good outfielder in baseball can’t make up for being a horrendous batter.
Frank is statistically one of the worst shooters in the NBA compared to how many games he has played this season, and has only put up double figures six times in 43 games, and three of those game in his first 12 matches. Injuries have hampered his progression this year, and I do have to take into account he’s only young. However, I can’t see why Fizdale might not entertain any trade offers in the summer.
One Down: Lance Thomas
Lance gets an A+ on the locker room leadership scale, but he’s definitely seen to much floor time for my liking this season, given the fact he isn’t particularly good at shooting. He’s averaged a measly 4.3 points in 16.7 minutes per game. Yuck. Lance is a fairly dogged defender, but I risk creeping back into the Ntilikina talk when I say that being a good defender DOES NOT make up for not being able to put up points!
If Lance is to get a new deal, it will be a vet’s minimum without a doubt, and the hope will be that he doesn’t see anywhere near as much game time as he has this season. He is a great head to have in the locker room, and all the players seem to love him, but there aren’t many other lines of work where you can be a nice guy but not very good at your job anymore…