Knicks Notes: Vonleh, Smith Jr., Tanking, Prospects

Noah Vonleh has achieved his goal of re-establishing himself with the Knicks, but their partnership may not last beyond the February 7 trade deadline, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Vonleh was looking for playing time when he chose New York last summer instead of the Spurs, Bucks or Cavaliers. He joined the Knicks on a one-year, partially guaranteed contract and has turned in his best NBA season, averaging 8.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range.

“A lot of talented players in the NBA don’t get to showcase certain things because that’s not how the team views them — they already got guys that can do that,” Vonleh said. “So the opportunity and the role is here, so I’m able to showcase some of the things. Coach (David Fizdale) said he has confidence in me, and that’s a big part. If your coach has confidence in you, ain’t no telling where you can go in this league. Sky’s the limit.”

However, Vonleh’s contract status brings some uncertainty to his situation. The Knicks don’t have his Bird Rights, so there’s no advantage to keeping him for the rest of the season. They will have the cap space to bid on him in free agency, although they are hoping to use that money on a top-level talent. A few teams have expressed interest in dealing for Vonleh, sources tell Vorkunov, although the Knicks haven’t said if they’re open to a trade.

There’s more out of New York:

  • It doesn’t appear the Knicks are interested in a second chance at Dennis Smith Jr., according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York bypassed Smith in the 2017 draft to take Frank Ntilikina and hasn’t pursued him despite rumors that he might be available in the midst of a troubled second season in Dallas. A source tells Berman that the Knicks asked about the Mavericks about Smith before the season, but “not recently.”
  • Despite reforming the rules for the draft lottery, the NBA is still faced with a four-team tanking race for the rest of the season, Berman notes in a separate story. The teams with the three worst records will have an equal shot at landing the top pick, and the Knicks are in that competition with the Cavaliers, Suns and Bulls. New York has dropped 17 of its past 19 games to move into third place in our latest Reverse Standings, but all four teams are separated by just two games.
  • In another piece, Berman examines the top five prospects the Knicks will be looking at if they land a high lottery pick. He places the Duke trio of Zion WilliamsonCam Reddish and R.J. Barrett and as the top three, followed by Murray State guard Ja Morant and Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter.
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