The unique paths the current New York Knicks players have taken to Broadway vary to an incredible degree.
With the NBA Draft over and newcomers RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis in tow, there’s obviously a lot of talk about how players fit with certain teams and what their long-term impact will look like (as if anyone actually knows). But what’s usually lost this time of year is just how rare it is that a player drafted by a team, remains on that same team for five or six plus years.
It’s virtually impossible for players to establish themselves as untouchable and the league sees constant turnaround every year. So, just to hammer this point home, we are going to take a look at the current Knicks roster (all players under contract for next season) and the events that led them to the New York Knicks.
At one time, Lance Thomas was expected to be an NBA lottery pick. A five-star recruit out of high school, Thomas eventually committed to the Duke Blue Devils where he struggled to live up to the hype. Averaging just 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, Thomas quickly fell out of most analysts mock drafts. He went undrafted and found himself with the Austin Toros (an NBA D-League team) where he spent the first year of his career.
Yes, in four seasons, Lance Thomas went from a projected lottery pick to an undrafted D-League player.
Anyway, he was eventually signed by the New Orleans Hornets and played there for three seasons before being cut. Following some time with the Foshan Dralions, the Oklahoma City Thunder picked up Thomas for just 22 games before he was sent to the Knicks in a three-team trade that involved J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters. And today, four years later, Lance is still a Knickerbocker.
So, just to sum things up, it seemed that Lance Thomas’ NBA hopes were tarnished not once, but twice over the past eight seasons. Yet, he is not only still in the league, but he is playing a key veteran role with a very young, inexperienced Knicks team.
Unfortunately, to this point in his career, Frank Ntilikina is a prime example for the “the draft is a crapshoot” narrative. Originally from France, Ntilikina spent the first three seasons of his professional career with SIG Strasbourg (a professional team in France). While with the team, Ntilikina won the leagues “Best Young Player” award twice and averaged 3.5 points per game on 45% shooting from the field and 41% shooting on three-pointers.
His foreign campaign was impressive enough that the Knicks felt comfortable selecting him with their 8th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. However, since being drafted, Ntilikinas original efficiency with Strasbourg has completely plummeted. Through two seasons, Nitlikina has averaged just 5.9 points per game on 33.4% shooting from the field and 28.7% shooting from three-point range. Horrific numbers. And if Ntilikina doesn’t start to show improvement, it won’t be long before he’s out of the league.
Yes, the Knicks selected Ntilikina two years earlier with the idea that he will be their franchise point guard. Now, there are constant trade rumors surrounding him and it’s fair to question how much longer he will even be in the league.
Dennis Smith Jr.
How Dennis Smith Jr arrived on the Knicks is pretty funny. If you asked someone before the 2017 NBA Draft if Dennis Smith Jr would be a Knick in 2019, they probably would’ve said “yes.” But in their mind, it would be because the Knicks would draft Smith Jr. with the eighth overall pick. Well, as I mentioned, the Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina. So instead Smith was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the ninth overall pick.
However, following an up and down year in Dallas, Dennis was traded from the Mavericks to the Knicks on Jan. 31, 2019. The deal also involved all-stars Kristaps Porzingis and DeAndre Jordan. Throughout his 21 games with New York, Smith averaged 14.7 points per game on 41% shooting from the field.
Finally, we have arrived at some simple paths to the Knicks. Following a one-and-done year at Kentucky, Knox was always expected to be a lottery pick in the 2018 draft. He was a long, quick forward with a great jump shot.
So, despite some wary fans, the Knicks selected Knox with the ninth overall pick in 2018. And although Knox struggled in his rookie season (12.8 PPG on 37/34/71 shooting splits), there is still a ton of potential in his game.
Had Trier not been banned twice for substance abuse, he probably would have been drafted. However, Trier did test positive for substance abuse twice which lead to him going undrafted. This allowed the Knicks the opportunity to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
During his rookie season with New York, Trier showed his tremendous scoring ability as he averaged 10.9 points per game on 44.8% shooting from the field and 39.4% shooting on three-pointers. If Trier is able to become a more consistent player as well as improve his defense, he will be a sure-fire all-star in the future.
Because Mitchell Robinson violated team rules before his freshman season had even started, he actually didn’t play a single college game. Rather than wait out the ban and prepare for his sophomore season, Robinson decided to prepare for the NBA Draft on his own terms and spent his freshman season working out in private.
This is what led to Robinson slipping into the second round which is where the Knicks selected him with their 36th overall pick. So far the selection has been proven worthy.
Robinson averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game on 69.4% shooting from the field. Another crazy stat is that Robinson actually blocked more shots and he missed in his rookie season. Just think about that.
Following two seasons at Oregon, Damyean Dotson was dismissed from the university due to sexual assault allegations. Then, following some time at Houston Community College, he transferred to Houston University. During his senior season at Houston, Dotson averaged 17.4 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and 44% shooting from three-point range.
This performance was impressive enough for the Knicks to select Dotson with the 44th pick in the 2017 draft. Last season with the Knicks, Dotson averaged 10.7 points per game on 36.8% shooting on threes, showing great potential as a spot-up shooter.