Allonzo Trier
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic

New York Knicks guard Allonzo Trier has played just eight of 14 games this season. Why is he on the outside looking in?

Last season was tough for New York Knicks fans. Hell, you could say the same about the last decade, decade-plus.

But in the same sense, we’ve been gifted small beams of hope the last few years that have maintained our faith; more so than the Carmelo Anthony era ever did.

One of those bright flashes last year was undrafted guard Allonzo Trier, who proved to the league his true potential behind some strong play out of the gate. He averaged 10.9 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 22.8 minutes per game on the season.

Trier quickly became a favorite among all of the fans and the coaching staff. Now in his second season, the guard is struggling to see time on the floor.

The arrival of so many new faces has rendered his services nearly useless to this 2019-20 Knicks roster. His role has shrunk to that of garbage time cameos.

A look at the factors that have impacted his near-shun by head coach David Fizdale.


Team's Approach

No matter how you look at it, the Knicks’ future sits at a fork in the road. The team has two options for what feels like the 10th year in a row:

A) Win as much as possible with the current roster, which will help with all the contract decisions they face down the line next summer. Build a reputation by showing players approaching free agency the culture has changed.

B) The team could always freefall into a flat-out tank by playing the youth the majority of minutes on the floor. It’s the only way to find out who’s legit and who’s not. And still, this doesn’t hurt the cultural narrative.

But either way, it’s hard to see either scenario benefiting Trier.

If they’re playing to win, it makes more sense to play guys like Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock ahead of him. They’re (mostly) proven contributors—veterans who know the game better.

An investment in youth could still find Trier in the backseat because RJ Barrett has earned the starting nod, and after him, Damyean Dotson is earning his keep now that he’s fully healthy after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

No matter the path New York falls into this season, it’s hard to argue that Ellington, Barrett, Dotson, and Bullock don’t offer more on and off the court.

Point Guard Troubles

Death. Taxes. The New York Knicks need a point guard. All are perennial. Never-ending.

And this year, in what seemed like a bright year at the position, New York’s been hurt the most at the point guard position—even amidst the Frank Ntilikina renaissance.

First, it was Dennis Smith Jr., who didn’t look quite right to start the year.

He played just three of the team’s first 10 games when he took time off to deal with the death of a family member.

In his absence, Elfrid Payton stepped up and looked like the solution. But he too has had to miss time with a nagging hamstring injury.

All that was left was Ntilikina, who’s played rather brilliantly on the defensive end, but still struggling to put together big numbers on the offensive end. He’s averaging just 5.2 points and 3.1 assists on the year.

Fizdale has even resorted to playing Barrett at point guard due to some of the injury and consistency issues.

(Because Kadeem Allen doesn’t exist anymore, or whatever his absence means.)

Between Barrett and Ntilikina, there’s been no room to play Trier at either guard position in any substantial minute load. And with Smith back in play and Payton’s return on the horizon, things will only get worse for the score-first guard.

Trier's Play on the Court

While the rookie proved he can certainly score amidst the toughest of defenses, Trier still appeared to be more of a one-man offense at the end of the year. He averaged just 1.9 assists per game last year.

And he’s made somewhat of an effort thus far. In a blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings, Trier recorded four assists. He did that in just 11-of-64 games played last year.

So it’s not like he’s never displayed a glimmer of passing ability.

But in order to compete for more minutes on the floor this year, he’s going to have to work on developing a pass-first mentality in some situations. Mostly, the fast break.

No matter the game,  month, or day of the week; if you were watching a Knicks game where Trier suited up last season, he was guaranteed multiple trips down the floor in transition. Which is great, for a rookie trying to find his way offensively.

But I don’t think there was one time that Trier even looked for a teammate in the open court, let alone passed the rock. It’s almost as if the rookie was still out to prove something, still carrying that chip on his shoulder from going undrafted.

Which, look, could obviously be a worse characteristic.

The kid has heart. New York needed that last season.

But this year, Trier needs to find a way to record some assists, or even extra passes to keep his teammates involved. He had his undrafted rookie campaign, and it was (mostly) fun to watch. But it’s year two. Time to leave all that behind.

Because if he doesn’t, Barrett doesn’t mind passing the ball. And whether Ellington does or not, the Knicks need to keep his trade value up. Therefore, he’ll see time on the floor.

A reality where Trier is passing the ball in transition, instead of driving headfirst into three defenders, is one he sees 20-25 minutes a night on the floor.


Allonzo Trier is a phenomenal talent. Every team needs a guy who can push the ball down the floor and score when it’s seemingly unwarranted by the opponent’s defense.

But for these New York Knicks, this season has to be more about the team and less about the individual. Let’s just hope he adopts such a mentality.

 

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