Everyone knows New York Knicks rookie Allonzo Trier can score. He must do more on defense so he can take the next step.
Allonzo Trier loves to score points.
The New York Knicks’ rookie guard has been doing plenty of that as of late, averaging 17.7 points his last six games. He has shot 50 percent from the field over that stretch and also 50 percent from three-point range. Even better, only 3.4 of Trier’s 10.6 field goal attempts per game have come from long range. It’s not as though he’s doing his best J.R. Smith impression and just throwing up three after three.
But simple scoring does not a winner make. Just ask Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. They took big money to come and win in New York, only to receive a rude awakening. Fast forward to today and Stoudemire retired from the NBA without a ring in 2016. Anthony, meanwhile, became one of the most polarizing players in Knicks history and couldn’t even make it as a bench player with the Houston Rockets this season.
This is why Allonzo Trier, electrifying scorer though he is, needs to do more. He could easily be a starting shooting guard in New York.
However, that means scratching beyond the surface of his strong scoring abilities and upping his defensive efforts.
The Tape Don't Lie
Allonzo Trier’s overall numbers, recent hot streak aside, are about average. He’s averaging 10.9 points and shooting a respectable 45.8 percent from the field, plus 41.4 percent from three-point land. Moreover, only 1.9 of his 7.9 field goal attempts per game are from long range.
Except, there’s a problem, and we’ll need to go to the tape to find it. First, here is Trier in New York’s 115-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday:
On the whole, Trier looked solid in this game. He drove the lane and wasn’t afraid to get dirty under the basket. He attempted 15 free throws. His shot selection, for the most part, was strong and he finished with 29 points.
Now, let’s compare this performance with when Trier scored a career-high 31 points against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 23:
The tape here shows a different side of Trier’s offense. Sure, he’s driving to the basket and drawing fouls, but that’s not all. More than a few times, he opted to take a high-risk mid-range jumper instead of driving to the basket.
Well, folks, Trier loves that mid-range jumper. In fact, of his 10.9 points per game, 13.2 percent of them come in the mid-range. Now let’s compare Trier’s mark with James Harden, arguably the best two-guard in the league. He averages 36.7 points per game, of which only 2.6 percent come in the mid-range.
Needless to say, with how trigger-happy Trier can be in the mid-range, he might as well be Weird Al Yankovic.
But Allonzo Trier needs to do more than end his love affair with his jump shot to further improve. On top of changing his shot selection, he needs to improve his defense. His DRPM is at a lowly -2.94, which ranks 483rd in the NBA among 494 qualified players.
But wait, there’s more! Per NBA.com, Trier ranks 272nd in defensive win shares, or DWS, with a mark of 0.060. For context, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the league with a DWS of 0.178. This means Trier is lacking more in defensive skills than Gryffindor House is in Death Eaters.
Next, we come to VORP. Trier, per Basketball-Reference, is a lowly -0.4. That isn’t replacement-level bad, but let’s see (again) how that translates into baseball’s WAR. Were Trier a baseball player, his WAR would be at -1.08.
Trier has plenty of incentive to become a better player, and not just because it could net him a lucrative contract. The Knicks are expected to be big players in free agency this summer, with stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on general manager Scott Perry’s radar. Star shooting guard Klay Thompson is also hitting the market.
Now, let’s assume the worst happens and the Knicks absolutely whiff in free agency. On top of that, we’ll say they have the first pick in June’s NBA Draft and pick Duke star Zion Williamson instead his teammate, shooting guard RJ Barrett. That leaves the Knicks in quite a pickle at shooting guard, especially since Tim Hardaway Jr. was sent to the Dallas Mavericks with Kristaps Porzingis.
That means, barring a trade, the Knicks’ shooting guard battle could easily feature Trier. Depending on what the rest of the roster looks like, it could be his job to lose. That is, it will be if he shows he’s improved his game.
All in all, if Allonzo Trier is a simple scorer the rest of his career, that’s fine. Plenty of players have found their niche in the NBA doing just that, so it’s not as though improving will make or break his career.
Except, Trier has an excellent defensive coach in David Fizdale. The NBA is all about that scoring now, but a strong defensive effort needs attention too. The point is Trier doesn’t really have an excuse to not improve his defense next season. He’s only 23 and should be able to with some effort and coaching. If he doesn’t, then that’s on him.
In which case, he can expect to be relegated to the bench as the Knicks continue to try and find that winning formula.
Hopefully, for the sake of the team and its long-suffering fans, that doesn’t become the case.