New York Knicks: Dennis Smith injury impacts potential preseason lineup

Dennis Smith Jr., New York Knicks (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dennis Smith Jr., New York Knicks (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks will likely not have Dennis Smith Jr. available for their preseason opener against the Washington Wizards. What could that mean for the starting lineup?

Dennis Smith Jr. sat out the New York Knicks’ open practice Saturday due to a strained lower back, per SNY’s Ian Begley. A back injury took the young point guard off the court down the stretch of the 2018-19 season, although he returned for its final games.

Well, this ailment is likely to keep Smith out of Monday’s preseason opener against the Washington Wizards, as head coach David Fizdale told Begley.

If so, it alters the potential preseason lineup for the Knicks for however long it keeps Smith sidelined. They have the pieces to make up for it, so how could this five-man group look in Washington, D.C.?

Elfrid Payton

Without Smith, Elfrid Payton projects as the next man up. He signed in the offseason and is legitimate competition at point guard, so the opener is a golden opportunity to take advantage of and make a case for starting the regular-season opener against San Antonio.

RJ Barrett

The new first-rounder on the block, the Knicks have nothing to lose by starting RJ Barrett in his first professional game. It tests him against a full roster of NBA players, rather than a summer league team. He may not stick as a starter to begin the season, but Fizdale should at least give him this first look.

Marcus Morris

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Marcus Morris projects to receive the veteran nod over the younger Kevin Knox. Perhaps they alternate with each preseason game, but the more seasoned player of the two may give New York a superior look at both ends of the court.

Julius Randle

The Knicks gave Julius Randle three years, $62.3 million. While no starting lineup has been announced, he should be a shoo-in for contractual reasons alone. However, the Kentucky product might be the team’s best offensive player right now, and they need plenty of baskets based on their scoring woes in 2018-19.

Mitchell Robinson

The easiest choice to fit into the lineup, Mitchell Robinson proved dynamic as a rim-running center in his rookie year. He will have every chance to follow up on it, including taking a step forward on offense. 

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The New York Knicks will open with a to-be-determined lineup against the Wizards on Monday, Oct. 7, at 7:00 p.m. ET on MSG, NSWA and NBA League Pass.