The New York Knicks starting point guard position is all but locked up, as the team has 15 players signed to guaranteed contracts for the 2019-20 season. This gives us a pretty good idea of who will be featuring at each spot; at the point guard position, Dennis Smith Jr. will likely be the favorite choice.
The uber-athletic PG For the Knicks is the expected starter given his ability to score and potential he has for the future. Behind Smith Jr., new signing Elfrid Payton is the preferred second option and then Frank Ntilikina as the third reserve player.
The New York Knicks need Dennis Smith Jr. to excel next season:
Next season is incredibly crucial for Dennis Smith Jr., though, as the third campaign in his career will be telling of his potential and if he can be a consistent point guard in the NBA. In his rookie season, he earned All-Rookie honors after averaging 15.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds and 69 games in 2017.
His jaw-dropping dunks have made him an exciting player to watch, but his mid-range jumper has lacked from the perimeter. That is a part of his game that he has worked on this off-season to refine going into 2019. As a rookie, he shot just 22.3% from three point land. In his first two seasons combined, he shot 31.6% from three. Additionally, he converted less than 70% of his free throws as a rookie and shot only 63.5% last season.
Consistent injuries and deficiencies have hurt his career up to this point, but if he can improve his perimeter shot, he could see himself blossom into the player he’s capable of being. Not relying solely on his athletic ability might take the strain off of his legs and help him avoid injuries.
As for Elfrid Payton, he averaged 10.6 points, 7.6 assists, and 4.1 defense of rebounds over 29.8 minutes last season. His assist totals are very impressive and something the Knicks will look to utilize when he is on the court. His defense is also elite, similar to Ntilikina.
It’s expected that Payton will be the second option behind Smith Jr. given his defensive abilities and desire to move the ball around the floor and give other players opportunities to score. He is not a selfish point guard which attest to his lower point average is and his elevated assists.
Ntilikina, on the other hand, is quite weak in every category. Averaging just 5.7 points, 2.8 assists and 1.7 defensive rebounds over 21 minutes played last season, he is losing favoritism with the coaching staff very quickly and will likely see the 2019-20 season as his last opportunity to be a starting option in the NBA.
I anticipate the Knicks utilizing him in defensive situations only considering his offensive production is so weak.