New York Knicks: Can Dennis Smith Jr.’s Improved Jumpshot Win the PG Battle?

The New York Knicks' are hungry for improvements all-around at every position on the roster. The point guard battle is one to keep an eye on, and Dennis Smith Jr.'s improved jump shot just might give him the upper hand.

New York Knicks, Dennis Smith Jr.
Mar 4, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) walks off the court during the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks‘ are hungry for improvements all-around at every position on the roster. The point guard battle is one to keep an eye on, and Dennis Smith Jr.’s improved jump shot just might give him the upper hand.

After a 17-65 season a year ago, there is (hopefully) nowhere to go but up for the New York Knicks in 2019. In order for New York to steer the franchise in the right direction, they’ll need their young pieces, key contributors from a season ago, and new acquisitions to adapt and take the next steps in regards to what they bring to the table.

Mitchell Robinson, a defensive prowess from last season, is looking to stretch his game and become a threat from farther away from the basket. Kevin Knox, who as a rookie was given a long leash from David Fizdale, will need to truly battle for minutes with a suddenly loaded frontcourt with the likes of Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, and Bobby Portis.

And then there’s the positional battle with Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntilikina, and Elfrid Payton, the latest trio of guards to vying for the role of the Knicks’ point guard of the future.

The Knicks are searching for something, anything really, that can signal they have their point guard of the future on the roster today. For years the position has been met with uncertainty, as New York has tried every manner possible to find a solution (Ntilikina via the draft, Dennis Smith Jr. via trade, and Elfrid Payton via free agency).

Dennis Smith Jr., the most athletically gifted of the trio, might have the upper hand by eye test alone, but he’ll need an extra advantage if he wants to secure the point guard role long-term. And after an offseason of training, he just may have found it.

Like many other Knicks players, Smith Jr. worked on improving his jump shot over the summer. Dennis Smith Jr. is a career 31.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc, so in reality, any type of improvement can be impactful. For reference, Ntilikina is a 30 percent career three-point shooter, and Payton has averaged roughly the same percentage from deep as well (ProBasketballReference).

So the Knicks haven’t been able to historically rely on their point guards for perimeter shooting, but if one of the three managed to build that confidence in 2019, could the front office suddenly have a change of heart? In a league that has seen the importance of the three-point shot grow exponentially in recent memory, the ability for a Knicks guard to add that skill could be invaluable.

He’ll need to back up his talk with the efficiency on the court, but Dennis Smith Jr. made it an effort to add the outside shot to his skillset. If the talk comes to fruition, and we indeed see him have a leg up over his counterparts in shooting from outside, the Knicks may have just found a long-term solution at the point guard spot.