Throughout the preseason, David Fizdale has talked about Dennis Smith Jr, Elfrid Payton, and Frank Ntilikina as the ones who are competing for the starting point guard position. It’s fair to speculate that 1 of those 3 will start the year as an inactive player, while the other two serve as starter and backup.
DSJ does not look 100% by any stretch and played a horrible game in his return vs the Hawks. He looked oddly timid and passed up some easy driving lanes which didn’t seem normal for such an explosive athlete.
Elfrid Payton looked good for maybe 1 quarter in the 1st preseason game and played a dud of a game in game 2.
Frank Ntilikina still can’t score with any sort of efficiency but has proven himself to be valuable defensively. So where does this leave us?
One of these guys is going to be starting the year as a point guard. But are those 3 actually the best at the position? Not at all. The best point guard on the roster is RJ Barrett.
RJ Barrett At PG?
Throughout the summer league and preseason, we have seen RJ’s ability to do all sorts of things on the court. One of his best attributes is his court vision. At 6’7″ and with much-improved handles, Barrett is honestly the best option for the Knicks to initiate an offense through.
Now the likelihood of Barrett starting a game at point guard is slim to none. However, we have already seen the coaching staff placing Barrett as the focal point of the offense to be run thru and initiated. They realize that his ability to spot the open man and run a fluid offense could be valuable even if he isn’t actually starting at point guard.
While RJ initiating an offense would be ideal, that still leaves us wondering who would best fill the other backcourt spot next to him. When you evaluate the 3 other point guards and what they bring to the table, it’s not hard to see Frank Ntilikina is the best fit.
While Frank has been labeled as a point guard, he really shouldn’t be. He’s more of a combo guard and doesn’t actually play the point guard position all that well. His true value is on defense, which is why he is the best fit beside RJ. The Knicks will need someone long enough and quick enough to keep up with the other team’s lead guard, which Frank can do. While RJ has certainly been better on defense than advertised, he’s too big to keep up with some of the smaller, quicker guards in the league.
That’s why the pairing of Frank makes sense with this roster. While he provides very little on offense, you hope that he develops enough to start knocking some shots down in order to give Randle and Robinson room to roll to the rim.
Ntilikina does so much that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet as well. If the Knicks did have a true point guard on the roster, Frank would be perfect to bring in with the second unit. But since there is no clear cut point guard that makes the offense truly run well, why not use Frank and begin every game with our best defensive lineup? The Knicks are best on defense when Frank and Robinson are on the floor together. And if they really want to turn back the clock and have that 90s style Knicks to them, they need to start on the defensive end.
While it seems the Knicks have too many players competing for minutes, they have time to figure it all out. We know who the main pieces of the young core are and this year, as well as next year, will be good times to evaluate the roster and decide which pieces to keep and get rid of before the summer of 2021.
That summer, many of the team options and contracts will run out and the Knicks will be adding different players to the roster.
Photo Cred: NY Post