This post is by a new writer to the Jomboy Media team, Jordan Gold.
Opening night for the 2019 Knicks is a little over two months away but with training camp starting soon, the most intriguing position battle lies at the point guard position between Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton.
Point Guard has been a position that has killed the Knicks for years as the team has not had a top tier point guard in well over a decade. With the trade of once-franchise-savior Kristaps Porzingis for Smith Jr. back in February, GM Scott Perry and co. better hope that he found his point guard of the future or his tenure at Madison Square Garden could be short-lived after the swing and miss summer the team just endured.
Smith Jr., the former ninth overall pick and All-Rookie selection, is coming off an up and down second season as a pro. He played 21 games for the Knicks after being traded from Dallas and averaged 14.7 points and 5.4 assists per game. Smith struggled from the field, shooting 41.3 percent, but he electrified the Garden crowd on many occasions with high-flying jams that he has become known for during his brief NBA career.
Going against Smith Jr. for the starting job is veteran Elfrid Payton. Entering his sixth season in the NBA, Payton will be looking to find a permanent home in the league as the Knicks are his fourth team in six seasons. Payton was drafted by Scott Perry in Orlando and is coming off a solid, but injury-riddled season in New Orleans. The point guard out of Louisiana Lafayette averaged 10.6 points and 7.6 assists per game in 42 games, all of which he started.
This decision is going to be a tough one for Coach Fizdale and his staff, but I think the choice is clear for the orange and blue: the starting point guard on opening night in San Antonio must be Dennis Smith Jr. Unfortunately, this season at the Garden will most likely be much like the last few, lots of losing and lots of talent evaluating.
Smith Jr. has a team option following this season and the Knicks need to know if the centerpiece return from the Porzingis trade is the coveted young point guard of the future in Manhattan. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native and good friend of rapper J. Cole is only 21 years old and has a ton of upside.
Smith Jr. has struggled mightily as a shooter during his first two years in the association, especially from behind the arc where he is a career 31.6 percent shooter. Smith clearly recognizes these issues and has been working this summer with Knicks assistant Keith Smart on reworking his jumper.
“It’s getting his delivery system into the shot where he can get more confident shooting,’’ Smart told the New York Post earlier this summer. “He’s been a willing participant. I told him it would be a tedious process to start. But if we do it all right, he’ll start feeling it.”
If Smith Jr. can put together a solid jump shot combined with his top-notch explosiveness, the Knicks may have discovered a diamond in the rough. Payton should be a very nice contributor for this interesting Knicks roster, but, in my opinion, he is best-served leading the second unit.
Knicks fans have suffered a lot in recent memory and this summer proved to be no different. Not giving Smith Jr. the opportunity to start would in all reality be admitting defeat in the Porzingis trade. $74 million in cap space that was used to sign various power forwards and other role players cannot be what defines the Porzingis trade for the Knicks. Dennis Smith Jr. needs to be given the opportunity to be the man for this young Knicks group.