New York Knicks: Predicting the opening night starting lineup for 2019-20

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
New York Knicks (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Weeks before training camp, a look at predicting who the New York Knicks will include in their starting lineup.

The New York Knicks switched their starting lineups throughout the 2018-19 NBA season, whether due to injuries or head coach David Fizdale deciding to make changes. He used roughly 30 different groups en route to a 17-65 record.

Four months since the regular season ended, the Knicks have redesigned their roster, which will mean new lineups throughout 2019-20. However, the focus will be on who starts on opening night, in October.

There are 15 players — 14 with Reggie Bullock‘s injury — to use, but five of them stand out for this prominent nod in the team’s first game.

Who will that favor for the first game against the San Antonio Spurs? Let’s take a look:

Elfrid Payton

Fizdale leaned towards the New York Knicks’ best passers as the starting point guard last season. For a while, it was Emmanuel Mudiay, who received praise from the head coach early and often, leading to 42 starts in 59 games he played.

Mudiay is gone, though, leading to the Knicks declaring a new starting point guard for the 2019-20 season.

Dennis Smith Jr. arrived at the trade deadline in the Kristaps Porzingis transaction, but he struggled handling the ball, featuring 2.6 turnovers to 5.4 assists after joining the Knicks. He had 3.1 turnovers to 4.3 assists earlier that year in Dallas.

For an additional face, the Knicks signed Elfrid Payton in free agency, which represents a passing upgrade. The same can’t be said for his outside shooting and overall scoring ability, but if Fizdale wants another pass-first point guard playing a top role, the 2014 lottery pick will take the nod.

Payton, in 42 games with the New Orleans Pelicans, had 7.6 assists to 2.7 turnovers in 2018-19. Before that, his mark was 6.4 assists to just 2.4 turnovers per game. The reputation is there as a good passer, and this young Knicks team can use that, with rookies and second-year players likely receiving prominent minutes around him.

Payton might not dominate the minutes load, as Smith will deserve his fair shake. Frank Ntilikina remains on the team and could take some time. The same for Kadeem Allen, pending the Knicks call him up on the two-way contract.

The starting role could trend towards this veteran guard by opening night. He is not as athletic and does not have the upside of Smith, but has the upper hand in distribution, which can help the Knicks’ offense early.