The New York Knicks will likely feature Dennis Smith Jr. as their starting point guard during 2019-20 season, but he could lose starting minutes to veteran free-agent signing, Elfrid Payton.
The former New Orleans Pelican has better statistical production which should earn him solid minutes. Smith, who has been working on his jump shot and scoring production this off-season, should see a spike in offensive efficiency.
Entering his third season as one of the NBA’s is more athletic point guards, he is primed for a breakout campaign. However, he will have to overcome several deficiencies in his game and increase his assist totals in addition to his overall scoring production.
The New York Knicks need Smith Jr. to develop in more than one way:
One of the significant concerns regarding Smith is his assisting and inability to move the ball around the court. He has never averaged over 5.2 assists while Payton has never fallen below 6.2 per game and his five seasons as an NBA player.
Being a quality point guard in the NBA requires much more than just scoring, and the ability to attack the rim aggressively. Smith certainly has the athleticism and tenacity to get to the rim in a hurry, but he struggles in other aspects of the game.
Smith is only going into his third season, which should give us optimism and hope in regards to his low statistical output. Payton, on the other hand, is the better option for next season. Sometimes teams need to feature their young players that have more potential in hopes they develop and progress quickly. Head coach David Fizdale will likely make that sacrifice.
Payton is more defensively capable and also produces similar offensive numbers compared to Smith. With the added defensive quality, Elfrid realistically should be the starting option. If the Knicks genuinely plan on contending this season and wish to compete at a high-level, they must make a choice to start Payton over Smith. However, meddling in Smith’s personality and hurting his confidence will only cause him to lash out against the team, similar to what he did in Dallas.