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New York Knicks Rookie Report: I'm More Excited And Scared Than Jessie Spano

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The Knicks Summer League is officially over, which means it’s time to take a look at the three rookies and what we learned about them out in Vegas. Now, I should say I try not to overreact when it comes to Summer League. They aren’t going up against 100% NBA talent and it’s just a different game. Instead, I try to focus on changes they made to their game, whether it’s a certain new move, changes with their shot, etc.

So that said, my God am I excited and scared about Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier. I found myself shaking during the four summer league games just constantly singing I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so scared like Jessie Spano. All three looked phenomenal and added something to their game, Knox and Trier especially considering Robinson didn’t play last year. Let’s get into some individual talk about them to hold us over until the start of the season.

Kevin Knox

We have to start the No. 9 pick and Kentucky product. I can’t love this guy more, mostly because of what he’s done differently in the four games in Vegas compared to most of the season at Kentucky. He’s fifth in scoring in the Vegas Summer League despite shooting 35% from the floor. I’m not necessarily worried about the shooting percentage, because that’s not the thing to look at here with Knox, the second youngest player in the Draft. The biggest takeaway from Knox’s game was his ability to start driving and attacking the hoop. During his time at Kentucky that was a bit difficult due to the congestion in the lane and the NBA game opening that up, especially with more shooting. More importantly, the biggest weakness, Knox had was going left and finishing there.

Knox wasn’t settling for jumpers or just floating around the wing. He did have that problem during Kentucky where he looked a bit complacent staying on the wing. Here he constantly moved, trying to get an ISO at the top of the key where he could attack. Remember, Knox is a legit 6’9″, with a decent handle. You can run him at the 3 or 4 because of that, so he’ll have an offensive mismatch. He also showed his ability to finish at the rim, as this dunk drew a lot of eyes:

One of the other reasons I wanted to show that dunk is it shows off one of the other things he excels at. Two-foot jumping. He was that way in high school, Kentucky and now in Summer League. That’s something that will translate to the regular season, especially when you consider, again, he’s at 6’9″.

Finally, his shot form didn’t change, which is encouraging. He continues to have a fluid shooting motion, with his ability to create space and get into rhythm off the bounce. We saw during the 3rd quarter comeback against the Lakers, his ability to get hot and keep it rolling. Yeah, I think there’s a chance he can lead all rookies in scoring this year as that’s his biggest strength.

Mitchell Robinson

Mitchell Robinson was one of the more scrutinized players who didn’t play because of his decision to leave Western Kentucky and sit the year out. That’s part of the reason as to why he fell to the Knicks in the second round as well as people questioning his personality. So what did he do at Summer League? Put up 12.8 ppg/9.8 rpg/3.8 bpg. Not too shabby for a guy. But, it was his athleticism and ability to close out that really drew eyes. I mean look at this picture:

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He was unreal at closing out on shooters. He has a ridiculous wingspan to go with his athleticism that lets him close out on shooters, no matter if they are open or not. This was the individual play that stuck out for me watching Robinson on the defensive side of the ball:

Robinson goes from a hard hedge past the 3-point line to recovering in the lane before rotating out on the open shooter in the corner to block the shot. It’s unbelievable. Again, yes, this is Summer League and the ball will move a bit quicker at the regular season level, but Robinson will recover against that too. He blocks that shot with relatively ease and still will be able to rotate. That’s the biggest thing with Robinson. He’s agile enough for those hard hedges and then skilled enough to alter shots.

Offensively, he was running the Clint Capela offense, which is perfect for him right now. He isn’t extremely polished on the offensive side of the ball in terms of multiple post moves, so he’s at his best at running to the rim. The Knicks put him in a bunch of high ball screens and let him dive right away, looking for the oop. We’ve seen more teams running this with the development of guys like Capela, where the lane is open because of 3 other shooters on the floor. You prefer to run him as your backup 5 when Kristaps is healthy, but his agility lets him run the 5 with Kristaps at the four.

Allonzo Trier

Trier went undrafted and signed a 2-way contract with the Knicks. Honestly, at this point I wish he had the full contract and last year’s 2nd round pick Damyean Dotson had the 2-way deal. My takeaway from Trier was his ability to be the secondary ball handler as the Knicks used him as a primary lead guard, especially when Frank missed games to injury. He showed the ability to run that lead guard spot and getting others involved, something that people questioned with him at Arizona. He was viewed by the general public as more of a black hole at Arizona and looking to just get his. He fit that new age lead guard where he can score, run the high ball screen and get others involved. I was wildly impressed with Trier’s ability to move there. I’m not going to be surprised if he ends up getting the NBA contract before the end of the season.

All in all, it was a strong summer for the Knicks rookies. It’s okay to be excited. We don’t have to downplay that they did look good and you have the right to be excited about this group. Sure, the Knicks are going to battle for the 8 seed at best this year, but there’s now a young core to get excited about.