The SummerKnicks of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League finished with a record of 2-3. Obviously, the record by itself doesn’t tell us much. The real learning from Summer League is to be found in individual performances rather than aggregate stats, so let’s get to those.
Kevin Knox. You’d have to be cynical even for a Knicks fan not to be hopeful–maybe even a little giddy like Fran Fraschilla–about Knox’s performance in Vegas. We saw glimpses of him leading the break and initiating the screen roll both to score and create for others. These are things we really didn’t see at Kentucky. He was very committed to attacking the rim and getting to the FT line. He is going to be hard to guard for teams that aren’t committed to stopping him. (Boston was committed and leveraged him into difficult shots.) Knox had the greenest of green lights in Vegas leading him to throw up some bad shots here and there. So he was hardly a model of efficiency, though he hit a reasonable share of difficult shots. A bigger–if still mild–concern coming out of Summer League is that the jumper comes and goes. It’s a good looking shot, so it should be just a matter of time before it becomes a reliable weapon but how much time is anyone’s guess.
Mitchell Robinson. If you loved Knox in Vegas then you also have to love what Robinson put on display in every game. His rebounding and shot blocking should absolutely translate to the NBA. And good heavens, he covers so much ground. He blocked at least three jump shots on the perimeter that I can recall. Of course, like most young bigs he has no real idea how to establish defensive post position or rotate. Given all this, Robinson may represent a tough call for the brain trust. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Fiz and Perry decide that it is best to let him mature in Westchester this entire upcoming season regardless of what he does in training camp or pre-season. Totally reasonable. Or, he could play his way into 15-20 rebounding, shot-blocking, slam-dunking minutes per night.
Frank Ntilikina. Game 2 Frank was the best Frank, obviously. But how he performed is just as important as how well. He pushed the ball up the floor, even on dead balls. He attacked the rim and unveiled a bit of Andre Miller to his game. That last part might be the most important development for his upcoming season. Ntilikina isn’t likely to be a classic penetrate-and-kick PG like Marbury but he can still break defenses down. Miller is the patron saint of putting a defender on his hip and taking him to the mid-post to pass or score. He did it on slow-paced teams and fast ones. Given Frank’s size, he needs some Dre in his game. Though plenty quick, he’s big enough to back down all but a few PGs. We needed to see that in summer league, along with a willingness to keep his dribble alive in traffic. We saw him do all these things across five quarters. (The first three quarters vs. ATL were ychhh.) I don’t subscribe to this being a so-called “make or break” season for Frank, I expect to see him carry this skill set into the regular season.
Damyean Dotson. The most disappointing summer league performance (relative to expectations) almost certainly belongs to Dotson. A second round flier who generally impressed when he got some run with the big club, he is hardly “the” key to the upcoming season. Still, a lot of people expect Courtney Lee to be moved this off-season. That mostly presumes that Dotson will contribute (if not start) as a 3-and-D wing. I’m not gonna go nuts over a few bad games. (And, he did play well in the final game.) But, Dotson was mostly awful on both ends of the floor against non-NBA talent for four straight games. He has training camp and pre-season to turn things around but he’s got work to do. I’ll be rooting for him.
Allonzo Trier. The Knicks tried him at PG, when as far as I know he never even brought the ball up the floor at Arizona. And hoo brr-other, it did not go well. Jason Kidd he ain’t. But, he’s not a bad project on a two-way deal to play the bench scorer role. At 6’5″ he has nice size for SG so even if he never develops as an initiator he should contribute at his natural position. His college and summer numbers make it evident he can score reasonably efficiently. He was also the 3rd leading (per game) rebounder.
Others. Apart from Kornet, the SummerKnicks really didn’t feature other NBA talent. Daniel Ofechu had some nice moments as a rebounding and passing PF. I have my doubts about whether he’s athletic enough to stay on the floor but he has an NBA skill set. On the other hand, I don’t really understand the team’s fascination with Isaiah Hicks.