The Las Vegas 2018 Summer League ended for the Knicks on Friday the 13th with a win against the Pelicans 102-83. Even though they only went 2-3 in the league, I think it’s safe to say this year was a big success for us as we saw the booming potentials of both Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. Along with getting to see the growth of Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Luke Kornet, and Troy Williams. And a couple surprise players who played well with Alonzo Trier (undrafted), and Tyrius Walker. Before I get into the main players of this year I want to cover some of the lesser known players I see having an impact with the main club.
Luke Kornet, Tyrius Walker
Let’s start with Luke Kornet, he only got to play in one game for a total of 22 minutes before leaving with an injury and getting shut down for the final two games. Even though we didn’t get to see much of him in the Summer League, I find the development of Kornet to be on the right track. I see him as becoming a poor man’s Kristaps Porzingis and becoming a solid backup for him due to of how similar their games are, both are above 7 feet tall, can stretch the floor, block shots, and work in the paint. It’s likely that when the season starts he’ll receive more minutes as this year will strictly be a player development year for the Knicks and Porzingis being out a good portion of the season. Tyrius Walker is also an interesting player because in the final game he received 26 minutes, getting 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals. With his increased minutes in the final game you could tell he wanted to prove he belongs on either the Westchester Knicks or a chance with the main team. He hustled really hard on the defensive end and looks to be a pesky defender that’ll stay in your face on the defensive end providing a lot of pressure. I really like what I saw from him in that game but with the Knicks already having 3 solid developing point guards (Ntilikina, Mudiay, Burke) it’s hard to see where he can fit it the 15-man roster this year. I find it most likely that after that game the Knicks will put him in the G-League allowing him to develop throughout the season.
We got to see a decent amount of Troy Williams in the 2017-18 regular season and the Knicks liked what they saw with his athleticism, finishing ability, and hustle on defense. I see Troy becoming a paint and D guy, meaning he’s strong on his driving and finishing along with being a physical defender. Just about every time Williams would drive to the basket he was finishing strong regardless of where the defender was. He has quick hands which allowed him to get a highlight steal off of his own missed free throw that lead to a free dunk for him, and he also has decent court vision that can improve as well. I like what I saw out of Williams and it’s safe to say he will be getting a good run and in the regular season for the Knicks after he performed well and signed a two-year deal towards the end of last season.
Alonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson
I am covering both Trier and Dotson in the same section because they play in a rather similar fashion. Both are very versatile scorers, can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, and shoot the three. Dotson struggled for the majority of the summer league but finished with a strong game that showed people he is still developing well for the Knicks. I see Dotson becoming a good 3-and-D player, which he did both of those very well during his 4 years at University of Houston and those skills translate very well into the way the game is played today. Alonzo Trier is different in the sense that he was a really strong scorer for Arizona and that is the majority of what he did on that team. He can score in about every way, dribble pull up, driving, spot up, and he’s very crafty around the rim with his finishing. While he played his best ball at the point guard position I see him being a better 2-guard where he doesn’t have to worry about facilitating to other teammates as much as a point guard has to. He played very well though, averaging 17 points (2nd on Knicks), on 45% shooting, his scoring ability is obviously there, and we’ll have to see how he fills out the rest of his game in this coming season on his two-way contract.
Sadly, we only got to see the development of Frank in two games and the first one was rather forgettable. In the first he was way too passive, not forcing the defense to react and recover from what he was doing. In 30 minutes, he had only 5 points on 2 for 7 shooting, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists. But the highlight of that game was his defense, even though Trae Young had his best game of the summer so far, he still made him struggle shooting 4-12 from the field and 3-9 from three. Along with forcing some turnovers by putting pressure on him, but we all knew Frank would be a good defender, so we are really studying his offensive development. In his second game Frank looked much more comfortable and confident in his offensive abilities getting 17 points on 7-14 shooting and 1-5 from three, along with 6 assists. He has gotten noticeably stronger as well which helps him a lot with pressuring other guards on the defensive and offensive end. Also developing his passing vision when driving to the hoop he has developed well throughout his first offseason as an NBA player. And one final thing I noticed is that when he was out of the lineup the team’s offensive often looked unorganized which is a good thing to see, but in the regular season we will really see how much better he has gotten with his game.
Now we get to the best parts of the Summer League for us with this year’s draft picks. Mitchell Robinson has been nothing short of stunning for the Knicks this summer. I think it is safe to say that we have a serious diamond in the rough with Robinson being taken in the second round. He was highly ranked in his draft class but decided to skip a year of college to work with Anthony Davis and his trainer for the entire year in preparation for the draft. He got to play in all 5 games and played very well in all of them, getting 5+ blocks in the final two games, averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game. I think it is very realistic that he can become the starter for the Knicks because even though he hasn’t played an organized game for a year he surprisingly had minimal rust to his game and was able to have an impact right from the start. His potential is really high and only needs to be taught the ins and outs of the NBA. He’s got all the skills that you can’t teach, height, strength, wingspan, athleticism, he just needs to work on the technical things within the league. He is aware that he needs better stamina to be able to go at people both on offense and defense consistently, his footwork needs to be worked on, positioning down low, and when to demand for the ball which all will get better through experience in games. He also runs the floor really well and has gotten a couple blocks when closing out on a three-point shooter, along with making some very crafty layups around the rim. It’s obvious he is very raw and at only 20 years old we’ve got plenty of time to work with him and with his skill set I see him being a Tyson Chandler type of player who will have no problem closing out on shooters and running the floor nonstop. And now the player almost all of us have been waiting for…
Knox has been spectacular in the 4 games he played, averaging 21.3 points (4th best), 6.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. One of the better things we have noticed about Knox is that his motor was a problem with him in college, but he showed the doubters that he can hustle throughout the entire game, which led to his benching in the final game because of fatigue. But when watching him play you almost wonder, how many different ways can he score the ball because he’s done it all in this summer league. He can really do it all, catch and shoot, pick and roll, dribble drive, moves well both on and off the ball, very athletic with his drives, and a better shooter than we expected (especially from three). Being only 18 years old he looks to be very relaxed and plays within his own game and knows how to get to his spots, he just needs to remember to stay aggressive on the offensive end all the time to keep pressure the defense allowing other players to get open. And with his length he has the chance to be a solid defender with the ability to disrupt a lot of passing lanes, and the ability to switch on to any player because of his height and speed. NBA executives have said that the Knicks got a stud in Knox and his former coach from Kentucky, John Calipari, has said to be patient with him because he has serious star potential. I see him working very well with Kristaps, a lot of pick and roles between the two can lead to a devastating combo of making the defense pick their poison of who to commit to as both can stretch the floor and have strong presence in the paint. David Fizdale has already praised Knox’s work ethic as well, stating that when he comes to the gym he’s not there to joke around he wants to work hard and Fizdale really appreciates that with him.
The future is looking better and better for the Knicks and I think we can finally see a light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel that the Knicks have been in. Even though we didn’t win the summer league it was a huge success seeing how good our players can be. And due to this being a developing season everyone I see no need to bring back Kristaps any time soon or at all during the season. We should let him heal as much as possible, allowing the youngsters to develop as much as possible and it will also give us a good rookie to work with as well. Be patient Knicks fan because our time is coming sooner rather than later.