Following an offseason in which the New York Knicks made several intriguing free agent signings, the team must once again reevaluate their options at the point guard position.
While it appears likely that last season’s starting point guard, Dennis Smith Jr., will begin the year as New York Knicks’ primary facilitator, the team’s roster is littered with options worth exploring.
Option 1: Dennis Smith Jr.
There is no doubt that Smith Jr. possesses the natural talent and athleticism necessary to develop into one of the league’s premier floor generals, yet the high flying finisher has often looked more concerned with landing his highlights on Sportscenter than the progression of his development. Smith has nonetheless continued to tease all-star potential and likely has the highest ceiling of any Knicks point guard. As the presumed starter on opening night, Smith will likely be granted the first opportunity to justify his playing time.
Option 2: Elfrid Payton
The Knicks’ front office established early on that they would not spend money simply because it was available to them, and picking up Elfrid Payton is evidence of that philosophy.
Payton resembles the perfect flier for a team such as the Knicks in need of guard play. While he has previously struggled to create opportunities for himself on the offensive end, the former lottery pick is still young enough that his peak may still be ahead of him. The Knicks once again will approach the season without substantial expectations, and throwing minutes at a low risk, high reward prospect such as Payton is worth a shot.
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Option 3: Frank Ntilikina
I know that nobody wants to hear about the French kid, but as long as Frank Ntilikina remains on the roster, he must at the very least remain in the starting point guard discussion. The lengthy point-forward has already established himself as a net positive on the defensive end, and if his ability to create for his teammates, as well as himself, improves, Ntilikina could become the two-way threat the Knicks envisioned when they made him a lottery selection. I know it’s frustrating to discuss the long term potential of a player who has yet to average more than five points a game, yet as is the case with Payton, the Knicks have no reason to refuse Ntilikina another chance.
Option 4: Kadeem Allen
While the first three options on this list are highly touted prospects who have yet to justify their hype entering the league, Kadeem Allen‘s path to the Knicks was less glamorous.
A solid contributor at Arizona, Allen appeared to be a solid collegiate contributor, but likely nothing more. Instead, he has flipped the script on a career that appeared destined to end after college and has solidified himself as a consistent contributor at the professional level.
Allen’s lack of elite athleticism and shot-creating likely restrict his celling below those above him, yet his hard-nosed mentality is reason to reward the former G-Leaguer with a chance at cracking the starting five.
Option 5: RJ Barrett
In today’s NBA the most impactful players are generally swingmen capable of contributing in a multitude of ways, and while the Knicks’ latest lottery selection may appear best suited to slot alongside a primary ball-handler, RJ Barrett‘s development could be turbocharged with a move to point guard.
The Duke product has already demonstrated an advanced scoring ability, and possesses a wingspan capable of making him a dangerous defender, yet for Barrett to eventually become the primary option on a postseason contender his offensive repertoire must expand.
Moving Barrett to point guard is effectively throwing him into the fire, yet giving him a ball-dominant role is the most effective way to add additional facets to his game.
While each of the Knicks’ five options offer unique potential benefits, two possibilities appear most promising for the team’s long term future. Smith Jr. is the incumbent starting guard, and therefore his progression as a facilitator will be a primary focus. Barrett’s progression will likely be focused on his ability to improve those around him, and therefore an opportunity at point guard should be in the team’s plan.
The Knicks have lacked a starting point guard capable of holding down the position for quite some time, and at the very least it is promising that the team has enticing options. All five members of the list should receive an opportunity to secure the job, and it seems unlikely the Knicks go 0 for 5.