The New York Knicks will enter training camp with a position battle at the point guard spot, as Dennis Smith Jr. will look to fend off Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina before the beginning of the regular season.
Smith has been working all off-season to improve his jump shot and scoring production, considering his lackluster numbers in recent years. He has averaged just 14.5 points per game since his inception in 2017, and that has hurt his playing time and overall efficiency on the floor. He could see a significant challenge from Payton, who is a much better all-around point guard. His assist totals dwarf the numbers posted by Smith Jr (5.0) over the last two seasons. Payton has earned an average of 6.9 assists per game in that same timeframe.
Despite the glaring statistical margins, the Knicks will likely stick with Smith as the starter considering his youth and potential. Elfrid is entering his fifth season, and if it means elevating Smith’s game exponentially, the Knicks would be smart to stick with the former Dallas Mavericks.
There have never been any questions about Smith’s elite athleticism, especially when remembering his impressive bout in the Slam Dunk Contest (second place prize). That skill set will only get him so far in the NBA, making his mid-range game that much more critical.
The New York Knicks have their best man on the job:
Knicks’ assistant coach Keith Smart has spent time with Smith this off-season in Westchester helping him improve his jumper. The point guard enters the 2019-20 season with a 40.7% field goal rate and only 31.6% from three. These mechanical tweaks should make a difference, and Smart is the most capable coach to help elevate his game.
Despite the hopeful uptick in production from Smith, head coach David Fizdale is not going to give him the starting role, but rather let him earn it.
“I think it’s going to be great competition,” Fizdale said, as per the NY Post. “I think we’ll have between [Elfrid], Dennis and Frank, those guys will be fighting each other every single day for those minutes. Really at that position, I’m looking at are they defending their position at a high level, are they pushing our pace, are they organizing us while staying aggressive and really being the floor general for our team.”