Kevin Knox
(Mary Altaffer / AP Photo)

Despite being a little banged up, Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox will play on Thursday against the Toronto Raptors.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks will have a drastically different roster at this point in the season next year. There are guaranteed to be many roster casualties between now and then. But Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox are two young players who could have long futures in Madison Square Garden.

Both players enter Thursday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors a little banged up. Despite being listed as questionable on the 1:30 p.m. ET NBA Injury Report, both Smith and Knox will play on Thursday.

Smith was experiencing a sore lower back while Knox dealt with a sprained right ankle. But head coach David Fizdale likes the way both players look, but he mentioned that he’ll keep an eye on both to see how they respond in the game.

Smith has missed the last six games after starting in his first 17 games with the team. He’ll take on an unfamiliar bench role on Thursday. It’s the first game of his NBA career where he’ll come on as a reserve.

Smith might need to learn that role in the future. The point guard position is still wide open next year. There are a number of talented point guards available via free agency. Regardless, the Knicks are thrilled to have Smith back in the lineup. There’s still a chance that he develops into the point guard of the future that has eluded the Knicks for the better part of this century.

The head coach mentioned the desire to keep Knox in the lineup because he’s had such a strong end to March. Knox left Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers early, but the ailment won’t cost him a game since the Knicks had three days in between games.

“The three-ball is really going down for him right now,” Fizdale said. The coach alluded to Knox’s increased shooting percentages, especially from three-point range. In March, Knox is hitting 47 percent on 3.8 threes per game. He’s averaging 12.9 points in the month and shooting 42 percent from the floor.

The uptick in efficiency is a huge milestone for the rookie who has struggled to maintain consistency with his shot. Undoubtedly, Knox has all the tools to score 15 to 20 per game, but he has failed to show the consistency needed to hit those marks. The good news is that he’s only 19.

Frank Ntilikina's Concerning Injury

In more unfortunate news, there is still uncertainty regarding second-year guard Frank Ntilikina. He remains out with a sore groin that has bothered him since before the All-Star break. The Frenchman played 25 minutes against the Denver Nuggets on Friday and just under seven minutes against the Clippers before leaving the game on Sunday.

Like most teams around the NBA, the Knicks are ending the season with some nicks and bruises. For the players on the court, Thursday night is an opportunity to build on some progress and continue to grow for the future.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.