New York Knicks Damyean Dotson
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Damyean Dotson’s recent surge is proof positive that the New York Knicks must prioritize his development for the rest of the season.

Danny Small

NEW YORK, NY—The most important part of building an NBA contender is acquiring stars, but every team with title hopes needs to surround its stars with complementary pieces. Role players are the unsung heroes of championship squads.

Although the New York Knicks are still in a desperate search for a star, they have an effective role player hidden in plain sight—Damyean Dotson.

“Damyean [Dotson] got going in that first half and really kept them in the game,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters after his team’s 100-92 win over the Knicks.

Vogel singled out Dotson for good reason. The 25-year-old sparked the Knicks with five threes en route to 17 points.

“He came in right away and sparked us,” Miller said. “He gave us a good run in the first half and we obviously went back to him in the second half and he was carrying a threat. To make shots he was moving around, and our guys did a good job finding him and putting him in good positions to make shots.”

Prior to his big night against the Lakers, Dotson tallied 12 points on a perfect 2-for-2 from beyond the arc against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. These performances came on the back of a game against the Philadelphia 76ers in which Dotson didn’t even touch the floor.

This has been a common theme throughout Dotson’s career—spending a few games in the rotation before dropping out of the mix entirely. Rinse and repeat. This was true with Jeff Hornacek, David Fizdale, and now, interim head coach Mike Miller.

There’s a chance that the DNP-CD against Philly was the spark that has Dotson playing so well. Regardless, it’s time to leave him in the rotation for the rest of the season.

No matter what happens at the trade deadline, the Knicks should be prioritizing Dotson’s time with the second unit. There should be a concerted effort to develop the wing into a reliable three-and-D guy who can provide energy and floor spacing off the bench.

Second unit success

“He’s played really well the last couple of games and he’s had good games as we go through the year,” Miller said after practice on Thursday. “Again, we have different guys that can play that spot right now. We feel like he has been the best fit for that second group that’s playing together right now and he’s being productive with it.”

Miller alludes to the “second group that’s playing together right now.” That second unit includes Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Bobby Portis, and Mitchell Robinson; the lineup data suggests Dotson is a great fit for that group.

The Dotson-Ntilikina pairing has a net rating of 8.2 in 227 minutes on the floor together this season per NBA.com. That is the Knicks’ best two-man group—by far—with at least 200 minutes together this season. The 2017 draft class buddies are perfect complements for one another in the backcourt. Ntilikina can take the tougher defensive assignment and Dotson’s shooting takes the pressure off of the Frenchman’s shoulders on the other end.

Pivoting to three-man lineups, there’s less data, but there is another interesting trend. Of three-man lineups with at least 100 minutes together, each of the top three contains Dotson and Ntilikina. Knox (16.2 net rating), Portis (13.1), and Robinson (8.1) are the third member of each grouping.

This current second unit has played 48 minutes together and has a net rating of 20. That’s not even close to enough data to make any real conclusions, but it’s clear that this lineup has potential and Dotson is one of the lynchpins who makes it all work.

Although it can be frustrating to watch the Knicks start five veterans on short-term deals, the chemistry developing on that second unit shouldn’t be overlooked.

In closing

Dotson is a feast or famine player who has trouble maintaining consistency from game to game. On one night, he can drill five threes against the Lakers and keep his team within striking distance, but on another, he might go 2-for-8 from deep in a one-point loss.

But the Knicks have 37 games left to nurture his development. In today’s NBA, teams can never have enough capable three-and-D wings and Dotson fits the bill.

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