The 2018 New York Knicks Training camp guide: The rebirth of New York Knicks basketball.

2018 New York Knicks Training camp guide: 

NY Knicks Training Camp – 9/25/2018. -10/8/2018

Location-Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y.

Training camp is a time for eternal optimism, hope, and expectations for NBA fans. The 2018 Knicks are at a  crossroad in the sense that they have the opportunity to stick to the roadmap that the front office has laid out for developing the young talent on the roster, or panic and revert back to old tendencies and start making decisions based on instant gratification. This is the time for the coaching staff to establish who we are going to be as a team. They have to decide on what will be the identity of this New York Knicks basketball team.

Training camp is typically a time for veteran players to get into optimal physical shape in preparation for the grind of the 82 game NBA schedule. This is also a time for young unproven players to make an impression on the coaching staff. The latter applies to the majority of the Knicks training camp roster. The average age of the current Knicks roster is 25 years old. David Fizdale and his staff will have to exhibit patience with this group.

This roster is far from set, there will be battles for all positions, except for center, where Enes Kanter is the clear-cut starter. Let’s examine the other positions.

 

Back up center:

This is an intriguing situation. There is a long time tradition of great centers that have played for the Knicks. Willis Reed started this tradition in the 60’s and Patrick Ewing carried it on from the 80’s into the 90’s. The center position has always defined New York Knicks basketball. There has always been a dominant center whenever the Knicks were successful. Last years back up center Kyle O’Quinn took his talents to Indiana via the opt-out clause in his contract so there are only 2 other natural centers besides Enes Kanter on this roster.

 

Joakim Noah: This could prove a moot point if the Knicks decide to release him by stretching his contract, agreeing to a buyout, or trading him. Stretching his contract (after Sept 1), which would allow the Knicks to spread his remaining salary over the next 3 years with a cap hit of about 6M per year seems the logical way to go.. Trading him seems unlikely, I doubt any NBA team would want to absorb this albatross of a contract (18M per for 2 years ) when they could just wait until the Knicks release him and then sign him.

 

Mitchell Robinson: The talented rookie could emerge as the first center off the bench if he exhibits the ability to stay on the floor and not get into foul trouble. He is at best a project for at least the first half of the season. He needs to develop a legitimate NBA offensive skill set in order to earn playing time. His defensive prowess will be what earns him minutes initially, as he is already the best rim protector on this roster. He is also extremely foul prone which will limit his effectiveness and availability. His ceiling is pretty extremely high, but I doubt he will be able to handle 20 minutes per game to start the season. My guess here is the Knicks will sign a journeyman center as a placeholder until Robinson is ready to assume a consistent role in the rotation.

 

PF/ SF:

There should be an intense battle for the starting PF and back up PF positions,due to the unavailability of Kristaps Porzingis to start the season. Porzingis is still recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and there is absolutely no reason for the Knicks to rush his return to the team. Meet the candidates.

 

Isaiah Hicks.: Hicks is back on a 2-way contract. He will probably split his time this season between the Knicks G league affiliate the Westchester Knicks. He has shown promise when given an opportunity toward the end of last season but is much too inconsistent to be given 20-25 minutes a game. He was invited to compete for a Team USA roster spot this fall. Hicks was 1 of 14 invitees for the FIBA World Qualifiers. The games will begin on 9/14/18. He may be G league bound to begin the season again, but due to the lack of depth at the PF position for the Knicks, he could end up making the final roster.

 

Luke Kornet:: Kornet is back again, this time on a 1-year deal instead of a 2-way contract. Signing him to a 1-year deal made sense, because the Knicks would have had to release either Isaiah Hicks or Allonzo Trier who are both signed to 2-way deals, in order to ink Kornet to another 2-way deal. The uncertainty surrounding Kristaps Porzingis’ availability this season made Kornet more essential to the Knicks because they will need him for more than the allotted  45 days that 2-way players are allowed to spend on an NBA roster this season. Kornet provides value as a stretch 4, as well as a backup center (although that is not his natural position). His versatility will ensure he sees minutes this upcoming season.

 

Noah Vonleh: He may emerge as the starting PF coming out of camp this year. He is a solid rebounder and plays adequate defense. His offensive skill set is very limited (nonexistent). He will probably battle with Kornet for minutes, at the 4 and possibly the 5. Vonleh is yet another Scott Perry/Steve Mills reclamation project, as he was a former 2015 lottery pick. He will join Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Mario Hezonja as former lottery picks who the Knicks will try to develop.

 

Lance Thomas: Old reliable Lance Thomas, is probably the Knicks best interior defender at the forward position. He can provide solid defense, but his offensive game will allow other teams to play off him and run an additional defender at a more capable scorer, as they know Thomas poses no real threat of scoring. When Fizdale wants to utilize a smaller lineup, Lance can get minutes at the 3 or the 4. At age 33 he has become more injury prone, so his ability to hold up over an 82 game schedule is in question.

 

Kevin Knox: Kevin Knox ine looked at as the face of New York Knicks basketball. This year’s prized lottery selection will get extensive minutes this season. He is a natural 3, but he has the length to be a 4 against some NBA lineups. He would prove a matchup nightmare for opposing 4’s because of his athleticism. He runs the floor like a gazelle, and when motivated, he is a pretty good defender. He needs to bulk up to be effective against some of the stronger 4’s in the league. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind about Knox’s ability to score the ball, but the Knicks make sure his defensive game is being developed.

 

Mario Hezonja: Super Mario is the wild card of this bunch. He possesses great athleticism and is a very capable scorer. I think the coaching staff in Orlando messed this kid’s game up. He was never really given an opportunity to develop and afforded the luxury of making mistakes and learning from them. He will get the chance in NY to prove he was worthy of being the 5th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He will compete for minutes at the 3. His usage will depend on how the Knicks decide to utilize Knox.

 

PG:

Trey Burke: Based solely on performance, Trey Burke deserves to be the starting PG on this team. He was by far the most consistent and poised of the plethora of young PG’s that are on the Knicks roster. He has the ability to put pressure on the opposing team PG’s. He seemed to be able to get into the lane with consistency. This should help out spot up shooters on the perimeter get cleaner looks at the basket. The only thing really holding back Burke is his defense. It improved a bit last year, but it is nowhere in the class of his primary competition (Frank Ntilikina) for minutes on the Knicks.

 

Frank Ntilikina: Phil Jackson’s 2017 lottery pick was picked because he was supposed to be well suited for the triangle offense. Well, since there is no more Phil Jackson, or the triangle offense in NY this year, where does this leave Ntilikina? Ntilikina possesses elite defensive prowess at the PG position. He has the ability to become a top 10 defender at the position in the entire league. His problem is his offensive indecisiveness. He needs to look for his shot, and recognize when it’s time to be a little more unselfish. This will come with experience, as the kid is only 20 yrs old. I think he is more suited to play off the ball at the 2, but he needs to develop a more consistent outside shot. Let’s see how Fizdale plans to develop and utilize the youngster this season.

 

Emmanuel Mudiay: Mudiay is yet another former lottery pick who is trying to revive his career in NY. He has the size and the strength to be an excellent defensive player, but he doesn’t seem to always want to apply those traits to his game. When he was traded to the Knicks last season, he was out of shape and struggled to grasp the offense. He must come to camp in the best shape of his career, in order to give him his best shot of competing for meaningful minutes on this Knick team. I get the feeling the clock is ticking on the career of Mudiay.

Allonzo Trier: Trier is on a 2W contract and will be sent to the G league to develop. He is gifted offensively but has shown no interest in playing defense. His only chance on making this roster is if there is an injury that necessitates the need to keep him around.

 

Kadeem Allen: Allen is actually a good pick up, but at age 25, his ceiling is a lot lower than the other guards on this roster. There are a lot of things that have to happen in order for Allen to make this roster. G league bound.

 

SG:

Courtney Lee: Courtney Lee is probably the only Knick free agent signing in recent memory that actually provided value for the monetary investment. Lee is a legitimate 3 and D wing, who can play the 2 or the 3, although he is more suited to play the 2. The Knicks will probably look to move Lee before the trading deadline in order to clear cap space for what is their ultimate goal (To become major players in the 2019 free agency signing period). Lee can help out any number of contenders (Warriors, 76’ers, Boston, Spurs) make a playoff push. The Knicks will have no shortage of trade partners for Lee.

 

Tim Hardaway Jr: This was a bad signing from the start. It’s bad enough the Knicks were actually bidding against themselves ( 4 years 71 million) when they signed THJ, but his production remains as inconsistent as it was during the first go around with the Knicks. THJ is the player he is going to be, he will not significantly improve. Last year his scoring average rose to 17 Pg, but his inefficiency was in the toilet (+/- of -1.5. He has also now developed a penchant to end up on the injury list. He will receive extensive minutes, but let’s see if he holds up.

 

Ron Baker: Baker spent the majority of the 2017 season on the injured list with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He inked a surprising 2 year $8.8 M deal after his rookie year (2016-2017). That contract raised a lot of eyebrows because in my opinion, his talent did not warrant that type of deal. His money is guaranteed for this season so he will make the final roster. He is an adequate defensive player, because of his hustle and his willingness to take charges. He will, however, have to step up his offensive game to earn minutes. My guess is he is here for 1 more year, then bye bye Ron (cap space casualty).  

 

Damyean Dotson: Dotson came into the offseason with some promise. His summer league performance left a lot to be desired, as his game seemed to take a step back. He has the skills to be a very good defensive player, and he has a pretty good 3 point stroke. He will have to show this new coaching staff that summer league was an aberration and he can perform consistently on the NBA level. He will probably be competing for the last roster spot on this team

Likely depth Chart:

PG: Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay

SG: Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr, G, Damyean Dotson, Ron Baker

SF: Kevin Knox, Mario Hezonja, Lance Thomas, 

PF: Noah Vonleh, Luke Kornet, 

C:  Enes Canter, Mitchell Robinson, Joakim Noah

 

 

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