New York Knicks: December 15th can’t come soon enough

Kevin Knox II, New York Knicks (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Kevin Knox II, New York Knicks (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

We are a quarter through the season, and it feels like the New York Knicks have taken another step backward.

Even though the New York Knicks have acquired better players this offseason and are showcasing that they can compete with playoff contender teams (except the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets), it seems that the Knicks are destined to have a worse record this year than last (as a reminder, the Knicks went 17-65 during the 2018-19 season).  And to add insult to injury, not only do the Knicks have to cope with continued inconsistency in the head coach position, but the team also had a better start through 20 games last season than this season (previous year: 6-14, this year: 4-16).

In my opinion, December 15th—the date when the Knicks can trade their free agents—can’t come soon enough. After the team’s brutal consecutive losses, it is clear this roster is clogged with players at overlapping positions, which is mostly preventing the Knicks’ young core from finding a rhythm and continuing to develop. Veteran players such as Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis are taking crucial minutes from Kevin Knox and Alonzo “Iso Zo” Trier. It is counterproductive to have veterans soaking up court time while conducting a proper rebuild because it limits leadership’s ability to assess the long-term value of rookies while they are under contract.

After striking out in free agency, the Knicks gave the impression that rebuilding the team was the priority. The Knicks acquired Julius Randle to be the leader of this team and continue his development with the young players (considering he is 24 years old with high upside). The Knicks then signed Elfrid Payton and Portis to be young reliable backups with the potential to add future value to the team. Lastly, it seemed that the Knicks brought in established veterans (Marcus “Mook” Morris, Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, and Ellington) to help influence the young guns.

With regards to the established veterans, I believe the Knicks intended to have them mentor the young guys on how to prepare for games, focus on an 82-game season, make the right in-game decisions, and close-out games. Instead, likely out of desperation, the Knicks have slipped into making the veterans a priority over the young player’s development.

One probable reason for the veterans getting extended time over the younger players is that, the younger players have not earned their minutes. For instance, Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier may be receiving the short end of the stick to Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington because the young players have not improved on the defensive end of the floor.

At the same time, Portis and Ellington have not demonstrated that they deserve those extended minutes. According to ESPN, Ellington has been averaging 14.5 MIN, 4.4 PTS, 32.1 FG%, and 30 3P%, while Portis has been averaging 22 MIN, 8.9 PTS, 39.9 FG%, and 39.9 3P%. For Ellington, that is atrocious for someone whose career averages are 21.1 MIN, 8.8 PTS, 40  FG%,  and 38 3P%. And for Portis, that is a severe dip for someone who was averaged 27.4 MIN, 14.3 PTS, 44 FG%, and 40.3 3P% the year before. As such, the rational, longer-term view supports the argument that we should use Portis and Ellington’s minutes to evaluate Knox and Trier instead.

With December 15th right around the corner, I am hoping that leadership sees how the current composition of the team and allocation of minutes is limiting its future growth and that they consider trading some of the free agents that were acquired this offseason. I feel that my perspective resonates with many Knicks fans who are tired of seeing these veterans absorbing all of the young player’s minutes, especially when the team is not winning.

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Moving forward, give the young players more minutes so that even if we lose, the team can at least feel the “moral victory” of getting enough playing time to develop and learn from their mistakes.