New York Knicks: Encouraging signs from the youth

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks played a relatively competitive game against a 76ers team that stand fourth overall in the Eastern Conference. The 108-105 lose still came with some bright spots coming from the Knicks’ neophytes.

The New York Knicks season has not been one for the books, but I think most fans will agree at this point that the Knicks are nowhere near the playoffs. Without a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks goal this year has been to develop the younger players and build through their draft picks.

With the Knicks 33rd lose being handed to them by the Philadelphia 76ers, there were still a lot of key takeaways from the youth that are encouraging to see for the years to come.

To highlight this game between Atlantic Division rivals, Kevin Knox came alive with a career-high 31 points, seven rebounds, and two steals. He had the second most positive impact on the plus-minus with 11, sitting behind Luke Kornet, who was another player showcasing his range and overall offensive repertoire.

Although Kornet was not starting in Sunday’s lineup, he still had a +/- of 25, as he constantly battled against an aggressive-minded Joel Embiid. Kornet came out of the matchup with 23 points, five rebounds, and five assists, while hitting 7-13 from the field, while taking eight three pointers (making three).

The undrafted big man’s change of pace and ability to stretch the floor, similar to Porzingis, has been a common theme for Kornet as he hopes to play on an NBA roster next season. His play this season makes him an intriguing, and potentially cheap option for the Knicks as a backup power forward or center, if signed in the offseason.

Outside of these two, we saw another encouraging game from Frank Ntilikina after missing the past three games due to an ankle injury. Though only shooting 4-11 from the field, we saw a more aggressive game on both sides of the floor resulting in an eight point, six rebound, and two steal performance. His defense, as usual, was the biggest part of Sunday’s game as we saw some major hustle plays resulting in turnovers being forced by the 76ers. He also posted a plus-minus of 10.

Alongside Ntilikina in the backcourt was Emmanuel Mudiay and Damyean Dotson. Regardless of stats, this wasn’t Mudiay’s best game, but he played an aggressive game late, putting up clutch buckets almost bringing up a comeback for the New York Knicks. Dotson on the other hand had a neutral game only taking five shots, but ending up with eight points, five assists, and four rebounds.

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You’d love to see a win out of these neophytes (unless Zion Williamson is a bigger priority), but this season isn’t to make the playoffs. With the trade deadline looming, these games are to showcase individual players as a means of possibly bringing in assets or unloading contracts.