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Why Allonzo Trier Should Start 2018-19 NBA Season With New York Knicks

Dakota Schmidt writes about whether it would be a good idea for the Knicks to have two-way prospect Allonzo Trier start the 2018-19 on their active roster.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Boise Practice Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of his three-year career at the University of Arizona, 6’5 guard Allonzo Trier was heralded as a terrific scorer. That was most evident during his junior season when he averaged 18.1 points, 3 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 50% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 5.6 perimeter attempts per game. Those numbers, mixed with his knack of getting to the free throw line, allowed him to maintain an incredible 66% True Shooting Percentage.

Although he wasn’t selected in the 2018 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks were impressed enough with Trier’s great scoring that they awarded him with a two-way deal on July 3rd. That means Trier would be spending most of the year with the Westchester Knicks while having the option to spend up to 45 days with New York after the G League season begins

However, it appears that there may be a chance for Trier to start the year in New York rather than Westchester. In a recent piece for the Arizona Daily Star, Adam Zagoria alluded to the possibility that the rookie guard could be on the Knicks 15-man roster when the regular season begins next month.

That potential change comes how the young guard has performed on the defensive end, a shift of how he was in college. The emphasis of his excellence on the defense comes from how he’s committed a good amount of chasedown blocks since joining the Knicks.

”Most guys don’t even make that effort when they’re 10-15 feet behind a guy,” Fizdale stated in that Zagoria piece. “This kid, he just runs guys down and then at the square he’s just pinning it up against the glass. And so there are just very few players that have a knack for that and he’s one of them.”

If he can showcase that new defensive aggression alongside his usual work on offense, Fizdale and the Knicks organization would be in the right to have Trier start the season on the big league squad. They could easily make that decision soon as the squad would have an open roster spot if/when they waive Joakim Noah.

However, immediately rescinding Trier’s two-way deal still wouldn’t make too much sense as they could still him on the active roster for 45 days while still being able to sign somebody to fill in the gap left at center.

Fortunately for New York, those 45 days won’t start getting counted until after G League training camp begins on October 23rd. Considering the Knicks open their regular season on October 17th, Trier would technically have more than 50 days to showcase his play at the NBA level before New York will have to make that decision. Of course, the Knicks could technically decide to be efficient with those 45 days by deciding to send the rookie to Westchester on off-days when they’re at home

This process would be somewhat similar to what we saw last year with the Phoenix Suns and Mike James. Unlike Trier, it was always intended that James would start the season with Phoenix due to the combination of his success in Europe and the Suns depleted back-court.

Those reasons allowed him to instantly have a significant role with the team as he averaged 11 points, 4.1 assists and 3 rebounds per game on 38% shooting in 23 minutes per game from the start of the season to the end of November. While not the most efficient player, he still played well enough for the Suns to sign to a standard deal on December 7th. However, James didn’t get a chance to celebrate that move as his minutes suddenly decreased due to the Suns signing Isaiah Canaan on December 13th. Just 10 days later, James was waived by Phoenix.

Although neither Phoenix or James really benefited from that move, that doesn’t mean that other teams shouldn’t test out this approach. Because there’s honestly little downside to this if a team like the Knicks are 100% certain about how a specific two-way prospect stacks up against NBA competition. That unquestionable mindset needs to be established as there’s still an expiration date for those two-way players.

In terms of positives, that player could bring a team additional depth to a position weakened by injuries or lack of quality talent. Alongside that, it would give the head coach another weapon to utilize if a team is worse against small ball lineups. Both of those examples makes sense for Trier and the Knicks.

First off, New York’s wing depth currently have only five players positioned at SG/SF if you don’t count the Arizona alum. That number could decrease as veteran Lance Thomas could play at power forward with Kristaps Porzingis still recovering from a torn ACL. As that process occurs, Trier can be an extra player the team can place in their rotation so the starters don’t have to play too many minutes. Although he was largely a shooting guard at Arizona, he did start some games at small forward so the versatility is there.

Although the positives for the teams are clear, there’s probably no negatives when it comes to the 6’6 guard. Obviously, he’ll have an immediate chance to live their dreams of playing meaningful minutes in the NBA, something you can’t say about most undrafted players. With that opportunity, they can both show their team and the rest of the Association how they stack up against NBA competition.

If they’re able to impress their NBA squad, like what happened with Mike James last year, that team will decide to give that two-way prospect a standard NBA deal after the 45 days are done. Even if the player gets waived, they’ll be $275,000 richer and also have other NBA teams knocking on their doors with another two-way deal or standard NBA contract.

Currently, we’re 22 days away from the start of G League training camps and the 45-day countdown for two-way prospects that are still on their NBA affiliate’s team. That means the Knicks have a little over 3 weeks to decide whether they would rather have Trier remain with New York and start going through those days or have him down in the G League with Westchester.

Unsurprisingly, it appears that the Knicks are going to use those 3+ weeks to figure out their plan regarding Trier.

“I don’t want to put a cap on him,’’ Fizdale told the New York Post. “The LeBron block. You just don’t see that that often that a guy can run somebody down and meet him at the apex and block it. That’s a real gift right there. I don’t want to say G-League with him or he’s up with us. I just want to see what happens with him because he’s a talented kid.”

No matter the final decision that the organization makes, there really isn’t much downside for the Knicks or Trier. If the team decides to stick the young guard in the G League, Trier can further establish himself on defense while continuing to shine as a scoring option. Meanwhile, New York can try to work with the rotation they currently have. On the other hand, Trier could immediately show the world how he stacks up against NBA competition while New York will have another piece to utilize in the rotation.

Although both those options have some merit, it would make more sense if the Knicks start to utilize Trier at the NBA level from the jump. As we’ve noted, New York will start the year with a rather shallow wing rotation as Lance Thomas will probably work more at power forward due to Kristaps Porzingis rehabbing from an injury he suffered last year. That would leave New York with only four players that can work at shooting guard/small forward. Trier would be a solid in-house stopgap due to his scoring prowess and ability to work at both wing positions.

No matter what happens, the dynamic between the New York Knicks, Allonzo Trier and his two-way contract will be fascinating to watch for the rest of NBA training camp into the start of the 2018-19 NBA G League season.