It’s early but according to reports, Knicks guard Elfrid Payton has impressed coaches and teammates and is moving towards a starting role.
Head coach David Fizdale has been vocal about players earning their minutes and their role and has been impressed with Payton’s ability to organize the offense. He spoke positively about Payton after their 104-99 preseason victory over the Washington Wizards.
“He set the tone for the game on the ball and with his pace. He got a lot of people involved, kept us organized,” Payton said. “Steady and tough.”
Begley also writes that several players on the Knicks were encouraged by his ability to get guys “settled.” Payton’s history as a teammate of Julius Randle and a career average of at least six assists per game may factor heavily in the coaching staff’s decision-making.
Against the Wizards, Payton’s on-ball defense and a quick pass to Mitchell Robinson for a ferocious dunk were highlights in a game where he ended with five points, five assists and two steals in 25 minutes of play.
But Payton’s positively play, while it is certainly a good problem to have, is also a concern for players like Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina. Smith has been tipped to be a front-runner for the starting point guard spot, and Ntilikina is looking to resurrect his career off the back of an impressive performance during the FIBA World Cup.
Coach Fizdale will have to walk the tight rope of prioritizing potential or substance. And based on his roster construction, it’s a tight rope that he will have to walk for multiple positions for the entire season.