New York Knicks: Trey Burke approaching return, but where does he fit?

New York Knicks Trey Burke (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Trey Burke (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks will have Trey Burke back soon, so where does he fit within the rotation?

On Dec. 1, Trey Burke suffered a sprained knee just one minute into the New York Knicks’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks. It has sidelined him in the ensuing five games, including Wednesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Soon, though, New York could have Burke return to the backcourt rotation. He hopes to “sneak in” on the team’s three-game road trip, per Marc Berman of The New York Post.

"“I’m hoping but I don’t really have a timetable,’’ Burke said at the morning shootaround before Wednesday’s 113-106 loss to the Cavaliers. “They’re not giving me any type of, ‘This is the game.’ They’re kind of just like, ‘We’re gonna base it off of how you feel after you do have some contact.’ I know on this trip I’m gonna do some one-on-one contact so that’s gonna be the indicator. That’s gonna be kind of the measuring stick of when I come back. But I’m hoping. Definitely. I’m just not saying on the record I’m gonna be back the last game. I’m just hoping that I can sneak in one of these games on this road trip. That’d be great.”"

It seems more hopeful than anything, especially since the sixth-year guard does not have a timetable. He still has to work through contact, before a potential return to the court. Though, based on his comments, this appears to be somewhat close.

Since Burke’s injury, the Knicks’ backcourt has changed.

It saw Frank Ntilikina disappear from the rotation, only to return and put up two of his best games of 2018-19. There is little reason to think his role changes when Burke returns, barring another scoreless downfall.

Courtney Lee also came back from his own ailment, but struggled to find playing time. He went to the G League for a one-game stint, and, as the Knicks potentially move him before February’s trade deadline, they must find minutes for the 33-year-old to boost his value.

Allonzo Trier even assumed some point-guard duties, although he’s better suited for his off-ball role and in isolation plays.

That’s only on New York’s bench, too, and without mentioning Damyean Dotson‘s play of late.

Head coach David Fizdale has his work cut out trying to make these pieces work, and where Burke fits remains to be seen; there was no doubt about this, after a four-game run of 24, 31, 19 and 29 points, respectively. Before the injury, however, he had another four-game stretch of 8.8 points on 18.9 percent shooting.

Will that once again cost the Michigan product a rotation spot? Unless he splits playing time with one of the aforementioned guards or cuts into Mario Hezonja‘s waning role, it’s possible.

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The backcourt is cluttered and the Knicks would not hurt from a trade to clear it. Depth is a healthy problem, but as the team commits to youth, it pushes players like Burke out of the mix.