The New York Knicks enjoyed their first preseason game of the season on Monday night, beating the Washington Wizards 104-99. The starting lineup featured predominantly of veterans, specifically the free-agent signings this offseason.
Head coach David Fizdale is making the right decision my utilizing his vets early on, as ensuring they have solid chemistry to start the regular season is essential. They will be the focal point of the offense and defense, especially Julius Randle and Marcus Morris, two players who will likely be starters.
Fizdale did, however, play two of his three lottery picks off the bench (Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina) against the Wizards, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering their struggles last season.
Ntilikina will be the backup to Elfrid Payton as Dennis Smith Jr. heals from a lower back injury that bothered him during the 2018 season. Fizdale was excited about the potential of Payton as their newly signed point guard, stating:
“His competitiveness. He just has a serious competitive gene. He hates to lose. He’s never out of a possession, offensively and defensively,” Fizdale said, per the NY Daily News. “He’s always trying to figure out how he’s going to win the possession. It just stands out to see that on the court.”
If Smith Jr. wins the starting PG spot, Payton will be the No. 2 option, providing consistent defensive quality and a keen sense of ‘assisting his teammates. He’s also a capable scorer that will contribute in that fashion as well.
Small forward “is what he’s going to play more of this year. We’re going to take him back to when he first came into the league,” Fizdale said. “We like the idea of having size at that position… he has a skillset that allows him to play multiple positions.”
I anticipate both Morris and Kevin Knox will split time at the small forward position and rotate. Fizdale could also choose to play the hot-hand, and Knox is prepared to elevate his game after putting a significant amount of muscle on before the preseason.
There’s a lot to be excited about this upcoming season with the youth and veterans combining efforts. There seems to be a better sense of accountability brewing between the players.