The New York Knicks have looked about like one would have expected to begin this season. They’ve started 4-8, which isn’t anything to write home about, but it appears they’ve taken some positive strides thus far under the direction of new head coach David Fizdale. New York is trying to patch things together in the time before Kristaps Porzingis fully recovers from an ACL injury suffered last season, and it’s unclear as to when that’ll be at this point. For now, though, the Knicks may have found something in rookie shooting guard Allonzo Trier. The undrafted rook is on a two-way deal, and appears to be completely outplaying that early on.
The Knicks do not have a bevy of playmakers on their roster at the moment, and it’s forced Trier to do considerable damage in isolation, which has had mixed results, but the raw numbers for the 23-year-old are impressive, nonetheless. He’s averaging 11.9 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 54.7 percent) in 24.5 minutes per game, which is not something many could have seen coming this early (outside of producing on catch-and-shoot looks in spot duty).
As was previously mentioned, Trier has been much more than that. He’s been a key scorer for the Knicks as a bail-out option, and he’s made his presence felt in clutch time, too.
In a recent Knicks win against the Atlanta Hawks, Trier had 16 points on five-of-nine shooting, and made things happen when New York needed it. It’s unclear whether or not Trier can keep this up for New York, but we’ll see soon enough.
The Knicks should be welcoming his scoring potential either way, though, as the team ranks in the bottom ten in offensive rating, and is 28th overall in both effective field goal and true shooting percentage, per NBA.com. In short, they can use all the shooting they can get.
Trier does not project to be a player that makes things happen for other guys often, considering he averaged just 2.4 assists per game in three seasons as an Arizona Wildcat, per Sports Reference. So far this year (obviously minus Porzingis makes a difference) he’s only putting up 1.1 assists per game and just 1.6 per 36 minutes (again, per Basketball Reference).
Should Allonzo Trier be starting for the Knicks going forward? I don’t believe so, no, but his role as a bench scorer could definitely be sustainable. While his handle doesn’t project him being able run as a point guard, he’s a capable enough for a two (as nbadraft.net noted), and he’s been able to take advantage of opposing defenders consistently in the mid-range area due to his perimeter shooting prowess. This play against the Hawks displayed just that, and it was at a huge point in the game.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 8, 2018
Now the Knicks can’t be hoping for Trier late-clock bailouts as a frequent occurrance for their offense, but when Porzingis comes back (and as already seen at times with Enes Kanter), Trier should be able to draw mismatches in pick-and-roll. Now, if he can make pocket passes to Kanter, Porzingis, or Mitchell Robinson more consistently, it could result in easy baskets for the Knicks at the rim on a number occasions.
Justin Richards of Fansided’s Daily Knicks recently noted how little Trier provides in the passing department for teammates.
“The illuminating light that comes from ball movement is darkened by Trier’s lack of playmaking and ball stopping. In only 11 games played he is averaging more turnovers than assists with a -3.2 net rating.”
The New York Knicks have now played 12 games, for the record, but the point remains from Richards. If he looks to pass more often outside to players such as Kevin Knox, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, Mario Hezonja and Damyean Dotson, it would make him less predictable to guard. Even with him establishing that he wants to score, though (by and large), he’s still been an effective driver, and has been taking it coast-to-coast on a number of occasions, even late-quarter.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 4, 2018
Allonzo Trier is off to a good start as a scorer overall, especially in transition and as a scorer off-the-bounce. On pull-ups, he’s shooting a respectable 43.2 percent, and that’s on a frequency of 46.8 percent, per NBA.com. If he can find more opportunities off the ball to score, he could be even more of a handful for opposing bench defenders.
His defense also needs to improve, particularly as an off-ball defender. He can be disengaged at times and as draft reports did say before, he still has problems getting through screens to contest shooters. He is a rookie, though, and his defense should be better as he gets more experience, and plus, having Porzingis back could provide more help inside. Robinson is a good rim protector in his own right (with 1.0 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game), but he’s not Porzingis.
Either way, Trier needs to trust his defensive footwork more, and stop being handsy on defense, as it can expose him to drives.
Moreover, Allonzo Trier has far exceeded the New York Knicks’ expectations at this point. He could be quite the find for Fizdale and company.