David Fizdale’s New York Knicks take the court for the first time in preseason and there are a few lineups that we need to see.
As the preseason begins for the New York Knicks, there are more questions than answers. Preseason is tough because it’s hard to figure out what to take seriously and what to disregard. Poor shooting nights shouldn’t worry anyone. Guys come in cold and are still finding a rhythm. But how David Fizdale structures his lineups is something to keep an eye on.
Prepare for a fair amount of experimentation. That’s what the preseason is there for — to let coaches assess their players in advance of the real thing. But we will see a number of potential lineups as the preseason continues.
There are a few lineup groupings that Knicks fans are dying to see. As Fizdale has made clear, he’s showing no favoritism and no one’s spot is safe. Each player gets what he earns.
That makes the competition for playing time — seemingly — wide open. Here are four lineups and groupings that we need to see in the preseason.
This four-man lineup should be known as the second chances lineup. Not because they are going to gather up offensive rebounds, but because they are all getting a second chance with New York. Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, and Noah Vonleh all share that special connection.
These are the former lottery picks that the Knicks scooped up during their talent-acquisition phase. All four players entered the league with lottery hype and yet, they have failed to live up to the expectations.
At least in the preseason, why not put them all together and see what happens? Burke and Mudiay are both ballhandlers, Fizdale is grooming Hezonja for a point forward role, and Vonleh is a capable rebounder. The defense could be an adventure with this grouping, but last I checked, wins and losses in the preseason don’t count.
It’s certainly an odd combination of skills, but there’s no better time to test it out. Admittedly, this lineup makes more sense to the writer who thinks in terms of narrative than the coach who thinks in terms of schemes and matchups.
This is one lineup that we’ve heard time and time again. It seems that any time Fizdale is asked about the point guard rotation, he tries to push the conversation away from positions. He’s said multiple times that he wouldn’t have a problem playing all three together.
Burke, Mudiay, and Frank Ntilikina would be a bit undersized defensively, but if Ntilikina is the real deal on defense, he’ll need to learn how to cover small forwards from time to time.
If Fizdale is serious about positionless basketball, he’ll at least give this lineup a few minutes in the preseason. At the very least, this would prove that he wasn’t dodging questions about the point guard rotation.
What makes this lineup significant? This was the first starting lineup that Mike Miller used in the Las Vegas Summer League. Obviously, a summer league roster won’t cut it at the NBA level, but all five of these players will see time in the NBA.
Allonzo Trier is on a two-way contract — for now — so he’ll spend most of his time with the Westchester Knicks.
Mitchell Robinson still needs seasoning so he may not be a central figure in Fizdale’s rotations from day one.
Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, and Damyean Dotson are all vying for minutes in the regular rotation. Knox and Ntilikina are guaranteed to see significant minutes, but to what extent is still fluid. Dotson, on the other hand, is trying to forge a consistent role in his second year.
All five of these players are potential pieces to the puzzle in New York. They are all at different stages in their development, but they were exciting in summer league. Perhaps Fizdale should let this group run a little bit and see what they have against the big boys.
For what it’s worth, this could be the starting five when the Knicks take the floor against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 17. This lineup looks to have most of what Fizdale is looking for.
By putting THJ at the two guard and Hezonja-Knox at the three-four in any order, this lineup has length. Unfortunately, Fizdale wants rugged defenders and this lineup isn’t made up of defensive stalwarts. If this lineup were to play well defensively, it would speak volumes about how much progress Fizdale and his staff have made in a short time.
But what this lineup lacks defensively, it could make up for on offense. This lineup can play fast. Enes Kanter can patrol the paint and dominate the boards while Burke pushes the pace and attacks in transition. Fizdale wants to play fast and a lineup with Hezonja, Knox, and Hardaway would be dangerous in transition.
This lineup mixes experience with youth. It has the potential to be the starting lineup on opening night so expect to see a healthy dose of it in the preseason.