Could Wayne Ellington join the starting lineup for the New York Knicks this season?
This summer the New York Knicks added quality players, and many of them are young with potential. Over the next couple of months, debates will start about who should start. Many names will be discussed for the one, two and three positions from Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr to RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox and Marcus Morris. One name that may not come up is Wayne Ellington, who should receive consideration to be a starter.
Last year the Knicks were 27th in three-point shooting at 34 percent. That hurt the spacing for the Knicks and one of the top reasons they were not a good team. Sure, there was not much talent on the team, they were looking to rebuild with some younger players. But you need to put these young guys in the best position to succeed. Between Barrett, Knox, Smith and Mitchell Robinson, none of them is a knockdown three-point shooter at this point in their careers.
Together, those players will hurt the spacing of the court, defenses will sag off and there will be a lack of driving lanes with no true threat on the perimeter.
One option is to play Morris, who has been reliable at 37.5 percent from the three-point line; but with Randle and Knox being important pieces for this team, that doesn’t make as much sense as someone like Ellington, who play the two guard, which has fewer players that demand minutes.
On the roster, Reggie Bullock and Ellington as the only natural shooting guards, while the combo guards are comprised of Barrett, Smith and Allonzo Trier. With those three being able to play multiple positions, it is easier to see Ellington carve a role as a starter.
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Ellington in his career has been a 37.9 percent from the three-point line. He has made between 2.5-3 three-pointers the last four seasons. In 2018-19, the Knicks made only 10 per game.
They desperately needed more spacers and threats from the perimeter, which is the only way that the younger player can develop their games more as they grow and mature. Plus, the bonus with Ellington is that he rarely needs the ball, he knows his role.
The veteran guard will come off screens and be ready to catch and shoot the ball. He also will provide the space for guys like Smith and Barrett by hovering around the three-point line, giving these players space to drive the lanes. Pick and roll action will be more effective with him on the weak side, spotting up at the three-point line, teams will be hesitant to help. That hesitation is all that is needed for guys like Smith to explode to the cup.
Ellington may be 31 years old, but he provides a needed veteran leadership on the court. He has been an impactful player the last few years, including helping Miami Heat make the playoffs and just last year was part of the Detroit Pistons team that was able to get back to the playoffs after a three-year hiatus. The Pistons were five points better a game on offense with him on the court than without him.
Starting Ellington would require either Knox or Barrett to come off the bench. Fans may not like that but it would be the smart basketball move to make. The NBA today is all about the three-ball, its the most effective way of scoring. The Knicks, on the other hand, are lacking in that department, with very few players who excel at that skill.
This makes Ellington that much more valuable to the team and makes him a strong candidate to be a starter. The best part is Ellington has never been a guy who needs to play heavy minutes, which will not hurt the development of the younger guys but could provide the needed ingredient for them to flourish.