Will Elfrid Payton be able to crack the New York Knicks’ rotation this season?
The New York Knicks need to make a decision on who the team’s starting point guard will be along with who will receive consistent minutes at the position.
Elfrid Payton is among the handful of new faces on the New York Knicks who was acquired through free agency this past offseason. Will he be able to establish himself as someone worthy of playing time on a team that is crowded at the point guard position?
The blue and orange are facing a significant amount of uncertainty heading into the 2019-20 campaign. At this point, it seems to be anyone’s guess regarding what their starting lineup will look like when the season tips off just a couple of weeks from now. Specifically, who will end up being the starting point guard for the New York Knicks remains a mystery.
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Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and Payton will all be vying for consistent minutes as the squad’s floor general. With this in mind, establishing himself as someone worthy of a spot in the rotation will be no simple task for Payton.
While no concrete decision has been made about who will take the court to begin the season as the point guard for New York, Smith appears to be the front-runner at this moment in time. The former NC State standout showed promise over the course of his 21 games played as a Knick in 2018-19.
During this span in which he started in 18 contests for the organization, the 21-year-old averaged 14.7 points a night to go along with 5.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 28.6 minutes of action.
Smith managed to put up a respectable stat line, though his youth and inexperience became apparent along the way. For example, his efficiency numbers were quite poor. The North Carolina native converted on just 41.3 percent of his field goal attempts with New York while shooting a dreadful 28.9 percent from 3-point range.
Payton’s other competition for time as a point guard with the Knicks, Ntilikina, primarily impacts the game on the defensive side of the floor. He has proven early on in his career to be a solid on-ball defender. He is agile and can stick with guards, while also possessing the muscle to hold his ground when larger players try to take him to the rim.
Like Smith, Ntilikina is only 21 years old, which makes his outstanding defensive ability and instinct all the more impressive. Although, it is worth mentioning that as an offensive threat he is unpolished and raw. Ntilkina has scored just 5.9 points per game over the course of his two years as a pro.
Smith and Ntilikina are adequate options as point guards, but they are not experienced or productive enough to completely rule out the possibility of Payton working his way into the rotation. Payton is undoubtedly the best playmaker out of the three young guards.
Though he was limited to just 42 appearances as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans this past season, he dished out a career-high 7.6 dimes per outing. Payton is an unheralded facilitator who owns great vision along with having a knack at finding open teammates.
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In conclusion, Payton may not be the starting point guard for the Knicks, but it seems feasible that he will be a rotational piece at the very least. Some of the bigs on the roster such as Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson could certainly benefit from playing alongside a dimer such as Payton.
His presence could allow the two of them to get easy looks at the basket thanks to the 6’4″ Louisiana native’s passing prowess coupled with his adeptness at running the pick and roll.
On a Knicks squad that is practically devoid of individuals who have proven that they can consistently make plays for themselves and others, Payton could help the group become more efficient and cohesive as a unit offensively.