8. A Surplus at the Point Guard Position
The Knicks enter the 2018-2019 season with four point guards under contract. Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Ron Baker will all challenge each other for the lead guard position. Realistically, this is really a three-man race between Burke, Ntilikina, and Mudiay.
Coach Fizdale has been vocal about utilizing players in different positions and not putting any of his players in a “box”. He’s even been vocal about his fondness for height and length which may give both, Ntilikina and Mudiay the inside track for starting point guard position.
ESNY’s Danny Small wrote extensively about the French Prince’s upside and benefits of starting him on opening night. Per Synergy Sports Technology, Ntilikina was first in the NBA at defending the pick and roll allowing a stingy .65 points per possession. Small also explains that shooters like Courtney Lee and Hardaway Jr. can also help Ntilikina because they pull defenders out to the perimeter, making it easier for the French Prince to drive the lane.
Minus the defensive ability, Mudiay also has the height and length that coach Fizdale wants on his roster. Standing at six-foot-five, and with his capabilities to break down defenses off the dribble, Mudiay is a jump shot away from becoming a real problem for opposing defenses.
This potential excites Fizdale and it’s the reason he proclaimed, “We’re gonna get you right” when addressing Mudiay at his introductory press conference. Prior to being traded to the Knicks, Mudiay had posted a career-high in three-point shooting percentage. Through 42 games with the Denver Nuggets Mudiay shot 37 percent from the three-point line, a reason to believe that he can still improve in this area.
And finally, that leaves us with Burke. Similar to Mudiay, Burke is a high-usage rate player with good handle and the ability to break down the defense. Overall, Burke was easily one of the most exciting Knicks to watch last season.
If we look at the advanced statistics, Burke tops both Ntilikina and Mudiay in areas like Player Efficiency Rating, Assists Percentage, Turnover Percentage, and Win Shares. Even with that said, it’s quite possible that his most effective role would be coming off the bench and being the scoring punch for the second unit.
In general, I’m all for starting Ntilikina. He was a top draft pick, and giving him more time on the floor allows the Knicks brass to see if he is the starting point guard of the future. Additionally, losing games while playing hard and developing an identity is valuable especially if the Knicks can improve their standing in the lottery. Start Burke if you want to win games, start Ntilikina if you want to develop the player and win the lottery.