New York Knicks must be patiently bullish on Kenny Wooten
Westchester Knicks standout Kenny Wooten still has room for improvement, but the New York Knicks must remain committed to his development.
The New York Knicks have quietly emerged as one of the most promising young teams in the NBA. The front office may or may not commit to seeing the youth movement through, but the upside of the roster is that of a postseason-caliber team.
One of the players who best represents New York’s untapped potential is G League standout and human highlight reel Kenny Wooten.
Wooten has become something of a fan favorite during his first season with the Westchester Knicks. He’s a prolific shot-blocker and an awe-inspiring athlete who routinely inspires the belief that he will develop into a high-quality two-way player.
Wooten is currently playing on a two-way contract, however, and could thus be overlooked when discussing long-term plans and intentions.
That’s a daunting possibility that the Knicks can’t afford to allow to become a reality. Wooten’s value is found more in his potential than his present-day contributions, but being able to play the long game is an essential part of team-building.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Wooten already has a skill that he can fall back on: Shot-blocking ability that rates amongst the best in the G League.
Mitchell Robinson is the resident shot-blocking specialist, but depth is crucial to success in every area of the game.
Wooten’s commitment to defense would be a breath of fresh air for a Knicks team that continues to struggle on that end of the floor. He plays with energy and intensity, and isn’t afraid to rise up to contest shots from players at every position.
If Robinson is the starting center, then Wooten could be plugged in as a small-ball 5 alongside a 4 who has more range on the offensive end of the floor.
Despite his current limitations, however, there’s also potential to explore on offense.
Wooten is a compelling pick and roll target who moves well on the dive and plays with ease above the rim. One of the most underrated skills in his arsenal, however, is how well he seems to control his body around the rim.
Wooten will need to advance the depth of his offensive skill set, but he does an excellent job of keeping his pivot foot set in order to turn inside passes into effective finishes.
Wooten will need to learn to either play with his back to the basket or space the floor to at least 18 feet. Even if he bottoms out as a rim-protecting big man who can rotate on defense and create second-chance opportunities on offense, that would be of value to the Knicks.
Regardless of how the franchise chooses to approach Wooten’s development, the commitment must be made beyond the 2019-20 season.
Kenny Wooten may or may not be a long-term asset to the New York Knicks, but giving up before the answer is found would be a mistake.