Home New York Knicks New York Knicks: Can Elfrid Payton steal playing time away from Dennis Smith Jr.?

New York Knicks: Can Elfrid Payton steal playing time away from Dennis Smith Jr.?

by Alexander Wilson
New York Knicks sign Elfrid Payton,

Part of the New York Knicks off-season veteran overhaul was point guard Elfrid Payton. The former New Orleans Pelican will compete for the starting point guard position, but he has an uphill battle to face with Dennis Smith Jr. being the favored option.

Despite the advantageous position Smith Jr. is coming from, the point guard position battle will be exciting, as Payton has a unique set of skills and can be a contributor on both the offensive an defensive side of the ball.

Most fans and analysts will call for Dennis to be the starting point guard considering his elite athleticism and overall potential.

At just 21 years old, he has plenty of talent left to be extracted, and the optimism surrounding his game is elevating with every passing day. This off-season he has worked on his perimeter and jump shot to improve his offensive production further.

However, Payton seems to be the apparent option to be the starter, considering his balanced set of skills. The youthfulness and potential that Smith has are what puts him over the edge. Smith has never averaged over 5.2 assists while Payton has never averaged under 6.2 assists in five seasons as a professional.

Comparing the two statistically, Dennis is a bit better on offense but not by much. The younger of the two averaged 13.6 points per game last season while Elfrid average 10.6 points. The offensive margin is slim, and Payton serves more of a purpose on the floor. Smith Jr. racked up only 2.8 rebounds per game while Payton averaged 5.3 rebounds per game. He also had 7.6 assists while Smith Jr. had just 4.8 in 2018.

Smith could undoubtedly end up being the more productive player, but at this point in his career, he doesn’t seem like the best option available on the team. The roster lacks a traditional isolation scorer, but Allonzo Trier I will look to fill that role. Smith can also be that player if he manages to improve his consistency with his jump shot.

What will the New York Knicks starting unit look like?

There are two different starting lineups the Knicks could feature during the 2019-20 season. Either they can start with Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, and a combination of Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett, and Marcus Morris, or they can utilize Elfrid Payton as the starting point guard,  Robinson at center, Randall at power forward, Barrett, and Knox.

It is essential, though, that the Knicks feature a defensive-minded player. Payton is tenacious on the defensive side of the ball and can offer extreme value in that facet.

Dennis Smith Jr. does not offer the same production guarding his opponent as he does scoring on them. If the Knicks and head coach David Fizdale choose to utilize more offensive-minded players, having a defensive points guard could be the right move. That is where Payton will leave his mark and potentially earn starting minutes next season.

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