David Fizdale has made it known that nothing is predetermined looking ahead to the 2018-2019 NBA season. Each player will have to earn his minutes and show the coaching staff that they deserve to be on the floor. He doesn’t intend to put a ceiling on anybody and wants his players to battle it out for the more significant roles on the team.
For the point guard position, the starting job is wide open. The Knicks have three young, promising guards that could all potentially earn the spot according to Fizdale: Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, and Emmanuel Mudiay. “I’m going to let them fight it out for who starts,” said Fizdale. “But I see all of them serving a purpose for the way I like to play.”
Here is a more in-depth look at the Knicks’ options for their primary playmaker:
Frank seems to be the favorite to start next season. One year removed from being selected eighth in the NBA draft, Ntilikina has shown much improvement over the last year.
Entering the NBA at 19 years old, Frank performed as expected for a rookie. His numbers were modest, averaging 5.9 points, 3.2 assists, and 0.8 steals, but his real value doesn’t appear on the stat sheet.
The Frenchman is known for his on-ball defense, capable of putting clamps on the best ball handlers and scorers the NBA has to offer, including Kyrie Irving and 2018 MVP James Harden:
Frank Ntilikina is back in New York and will meet Fizdale for the first time with an informal workout.
Take that defense to the next level! pic.twitter.com/GYic2Du6Va
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) May 21, 2018
Look at Frank Ntilikina locking down James Harden!!
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) November 2, 2017
This kid isn’t even 20 years old yet, and he is already one of the best pick and roll defenders in the league as well:
@ChrisCanty99 can u stop hating on frank ntilikina he's only 19 & everyday u say he's not a penetrating pg. he can improve u talk like he can't. why can't u look at what he's right now……. The leagues leader in pick and roll defense as a 19 yr old rookie pic.twitter.com/gpVftWSzjg
— I_am_Kivi (@KiviNJ22) March 20, 2018
He has shown improvement on his game in summer league action, upping his per game averages to 11 points, 5.5 dimes, and 1.5 steals. Although these stats come against young players that don’t have much professional experience, it is a good sign for the Knicks nonetheless. He has been more aggressive going to the rim and taking more shots, a point that he wanted to improve upon due to his timid attitude with the ball in his hands last season.
His improvements are evident, and he makes a strong case to be a starter in the Big Apple.
Trey Burke revived his career with the Knicks last season. After receiving a lack of interest by NBA teams in free agency last year, Burke inked a contract with the Westchester Knicks. He immediately stood out as a top talent in the G-League, averaging nearly 30 points before being signed by the New York Knicks in January. Despite playing half the season in the NBA, he still earned Third Team All-NBA G League.
His scoring prowess carried over to the next level, matching his career-high average of 12.8 points to go along with 4.7 assists in just 22 minutes a game.
People forget that he was a high draft pick as well, being taken ninth overall by the Timberwolves 5 years ago. At only 25 years of age, Burke still has a few years before he reaches his prime and has lots of time to fine-tune his game until then.
Unlike Frank, Burke is better known for his ability to score the ball. After spending the majority of the season coming off the bench, Burke was given the opportunity to start nine games, and he didn’t disappoint. He is the aggressive scoring guard the Knicks have long been in search of, drawing comparisons to Allen Iverson for the way he handles the ball and attacks the rim.
A look back at Trey Burke’s breakout game vs Charlotte when he became only the 4th player since 1983-84 to put up at least 42 points and 12 assists with fewer than 3 turnovers #Knicks pic.twitter.com/Zhdc8DqDas
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) May 18, 2018
Trey Burke looking like Allen Iverson here. 👀
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) March 27, 2018
Burke has shown the Knicks staff he can handle the starting role, and will likely be Frank’s biggest competitor for the job at the beginning of next season.
Although he is the most unlikely of the three to be named the starter, Emmanuel Mudiay could still squeeze his way into the starting five.
Mudiay was in the same draft class as Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis, being taken three picks later but falling short of his expectations.
Despite being named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, his numbers have actually declined since his first season. Compared to his 12.9 points and 5.5 assists in his rookie campaign with the Denver Nuggets, Mudiay only posted 8.8 points and 3.9 assists in his time in a Knicks uniform.
Amidst these struggles, the Knicks organization recognizes that he still has tremendous potential and needs time to develop his game. This won’t happen overnight, and Mudiay will likely need a couple more years of experience before he is ready to take on a starting role.
All three players are intriguing options for New York, but only one will be on the floor for tipoff come next season.
Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons