Dennis Smith Jr.

New York Notes: Wilkes, DSJ, Durant, Dinwiddie

The Knicks initially expected to fill their second two-way contract slot with undrafted rookie Kris Wilkes, but health problems will prevent the former UCLA wing from joining the team at this point, as head coach David Fizdale confirmed today.

He got ill,” Fizdale said of Wilkes. “He came down with a serious illness. I don’t know what it was but it was pretty severe.”

The Knicks waited until the start of the regular season to sign a second two-way player alongside Kadeem Allen, presumably taking as much time as possible to see if Wilkes might re-emerge as an option. Instead, the team is signing former Grizzlies forward Ivan Rabb to fill that open two-way slot.

Here’s more on New York’s two teams:

  • Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has signed with Roc Nation for representation, he announced this week (on Twitter). Smith, who will become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason, will be repped by veteran agent Raymond Brothers, tweets Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal.
  • Appearing on Serge Ibaka‘s YouTube show, Kevin Durant explained why he chose the Nets over Knicks when he decided to make the move to New York as a free agent. “I just liked the organization as far as the direction they were going in — a bunch of young guys that played in the playoffs before,” Durant said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “The Knicks players, they‘re good young players but they still need more experience to match where I was in my career. It was nothing major against the Knicks. I just think Brooklyn is further along in the process of being a contender.”
  • Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie left Monday’s meeting with the NBA feeling good about where things stand with what he’s calling his Professional Athlete Investment Token (PAInT), per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “They had four or five comments previously, we got them down to one,” Dinwiddie said. “I think we’re going to get it done. It’s just pending a little more feedback.”

Knicks Exercise Options On Ntilikina, DSJ, Knox

2:01pm: The Knicks have made it official, announcing that they’ve picked up the 2020/21 options on Ntilikina, Smith, and Knox.

12:31pm: The Knicks will exercise Frank Ntilikina‘s fourth-year option for the 2020/21 season, reports Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). The team is also picking up its fourth-year option on Dennis Smith Jr. and its third-year option on Kevin Knox, as expected, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.

Of the three option decisions, the one on Ntilikina was the only one that was up in the air leading up to the October 31 deadline. The former eighth overall pick has been somewhat underwhelming in his first two seasons, averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.1 APG on .354/.305/.735 shooting in 121 games (21.6 MPG) for the Knicks.

However, Ntilikina had a strong showing for France in the 2019 FIBA World Cup last month and has been more aggressive on offense for New York this preseason, as Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic detailed last week. As such, the Knicks were willing to lock in his $6,176,578 cap hit for the 2020/21 season. The 21-year-old is now on track to reach restricted free agency in 2021 if he doesn’t sign an extension next year.

As for Smith and Knox, those option decision were simpler ones. Smith, who was selected one spot after Ntilikina in 2017’s draft, will count against the cap for $5,686,677 in ’20/21, while Knox will have a $4,588,680 charge.

We’re tracking all of the decisions on 2020/21 rookie scale team options right here.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Ntilikina, Fizdale, Free Agency

The preseason didn’t bring any clarity to the Knicks‘ search for a starting point guard, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Frank Ntilikina was supposed to have rediscovered his game after a strong summer of international competition, creating an intriguing battle with holdover Dennis Smith Jr. and free agent addition Elfrid Payton. However, nobody has stepped forward to claim the job. Ntilikina appears to be an “afterthought” again, according to Popper, as he sat out Friday’s preseason finale while Smith went 2-of-12 from the field and Payton had five turnovers.

“I don’t want to think about it,” coach David Fizdale said of the point guard competition. “I’ll tell you guys the next time I see you. No, they competed. They really competed hard. They’re making it tough on me. They’re making a tough decision for me.”

Popper suggests rookie RJ Barrett might be the best choice, even though he’s not a traditional point guard. Barrett was a standout throughout the preseason, even though he spent time at three positions.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • The Knicks have until the end of the month to pick up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option at $6.3MM, but Marc Berman of the New York Post hears that a decision could be made before Wednesday’s season opener to avoid having it become a distraction.
  • In the same piece, Fizdale laments not having enough preseason games to adequately work out some important lineup decisions. The Knicks could have played up to six games, but management opted for four. In addition to the point guard battle, Fizdale has to determine whether Mitchell Robinson or Bobby Portis will be the starting center and he has to work out minutes at shooting guard with Wayne Ellington, Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson all in the mix, along with Barrett. “We understand where we are with a lot of new faces, but still are going out to compete to win,’’ Fizdale promised. “I don’t make any excuses. We’ll keep working through the chemistry and try to get wins.”
  • Contrary to their public statements, the Knicks’ front office was “stunned and depressed” when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving announced their decisions to sign with the Nets, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.

Pistons Rumors: Galloway, Griffin, Ntilikina

The Pistons are “very open” to the idea of trading Langston Galloway, two league sources tell Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Ellis had recently identified Galloway as one of the most likely players to be dealt if Detroit attempts to keep both Christian Wood and Joe Johnson on its 15-man regular season roster.

According to Ellis, the Pistons have engaged potential trade partners on Galloway for months, but have been unable to find a suitable deal. Although he’s on an expiring contract, the veteran guard’s $7.33MM salary is somewhat exorbitant, making him tricky to move.

As we wait to see if the Pistons can find a taker on Galloway, here are a couple more rumors out of Detroit from Ellis:

  • If things go south for the Pistons in 2019/20 and Blake Griffin remains healthy, the star forward could represent an opportunity for a “franchise reset” via the trade market, says Ellis. According to Ellis, there’s a belief around the NBA that going in that direction is a real possibility for Detroit if the team falls out of the playoff hunt. A league source tells the Free Press that the Pistons could reasonably expect a first-round pick and another asset back for a healthy Griffin. However, I expect that would be a last resort for the club.
  • Having previously reported that the Pistons may have some interest in Frank Ntilikina, Ellis cites sources who say that Detroit has made inquiries on the Knicks’ guard. It appears as though those inquiries have failed to gain traction though, Ellis adds.
  • Within that same article, Ellis notes that the Pistons also explored the possibility of trading for young point guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Markelle Fultz before last season’s trade deadline. Smith and Fultz were ultimately sent to the Knicks and Magic, respectively, leaving Detroit on the lookout for young prospects at the point guard spot. The team may give Bruce Brown some minutes at the position to gauge his potential there.

Knicks Notes: Brazdeikis, Morris, Smith Jr., Randle

The Knicks‘ Summer League star hasn’t found success yet in the preseason, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ignas Brazdeikis was held out of the team’s first game, then went scoreless in six and a half minutes Friday night.

“He’s a second-round pick and 19 years old,’’ coach David Fizdale said. “He’s definitely a work in progress. But again, every minute he plays is important for him. The kid will find his way as he takes his lumps.’’

Brazdeikis looked like a potential steal in July, averaging 15.4 PPG in Las Vegas, including a 30-point game. The Knicks made a significant investment in Michigan’s leading scorer from last season, sending $1MM to the Kings to move up eight spots and snag him with the 47th pick, then using a portion of their cap room to give Brazdeikis a three-year contract.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Marcus Morris is the latest Knick to respond to Kevin Durant‘s comments on the team’s lack of coolness, relays Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Morris, who signed with New York this summer, said his decisions aren’t based on what is perceived as cool. “I get what he was saying. I actually have a good relationship with KD,” Morris said. “But the cool part about playing somewhere. Playing in all cities – playing in Utah. Is it cool to play in Utah? It’s cool to play in other places. It’s cool. I just never was a fan of the cool thing. Making a decision off of what’s cool.”
  • Dennis Smith Jr. has two preseason games to make his case for the starting point guard role, Begley relays in the same story. Smith, who missed the first two games with a back strain, is battling for minutes with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina. Smith concentrated on improving his outside shot during the offseason, but Fizdale wants to see how effective it can be under game conditions. “He put in so much work this summer and I don’t think it’s fair for him to keep the same eyes from last year on him. We want to get a fresh set of eyes,” Fizdale said. “He had a heck of a camp up to the point where he got sprained.”
  • Free agent addition Julius Randle tells Steve Popper of Newsday that averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds is “easy,” but he wants to contribute to the team in other ways. “I want to bring everybody along,” Randle said. “Guys like Frank, RJ [Barrett] and Mitch [Robinson] and those guys and help them develop, because those guys are key parts to our team. The faster they develop, the better we’ll be, the faster we’ll be better. I wanna help them out.”

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Point Guards, Wooten, L. Thomas

The short-term deals the Knicks handed out after missing their top targets in free agency could lead to another disastrous season in New York, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Once the elite free agents were all off the board, the Knicks’ front office signed six players in a 24-hour span, mostly to one-year contracts. Coach David Fizdale has nine new players on his roster, creating a challenging environment to keep everyone invested in the team.

“The worry is chemistry issues and clashing as well as a rotation that will be tough to keep all happy,’’ a rival executive told Berman. “It could turn into every-man-for-himself – self preservation on full display.’’

The Knicks’ best hope to improve lies in their young core, Berman adds. Newly signed Julius Randle, who committed for three years at $63MM, is only 24, while Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie RJ Barrett all have the potential to improve. But if none of them can make the leap this year and Kristaps Porzingis revives his career in Dallas, Berman speculates that another front office shakeup could be on the way.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • The starting point guard job is wide open again this year, Berman notes in a separate story. Smith will compete with Frank Ntilikina and newly signed Elfrid Payton in what Berman calls the best position battle in camp. The Knicks seemed to make a commitment to Smith after acquiring him in the Porzingis deal, but may have signaled a new direction by giving $8MM to Payton.
  • Kenny Wooten will be among the most intriguing players to watch in camp, Berman adds. All 15 roster spots appear set, but New York has an open two-way slot that Wooten will have a chance to claim. He is an athletic shot-blocker on an Exhibit 10 deal who could set himself up for a standard contract down the line.
  • Lance Thomas has moved across town to the Nets, but he would have been happy to remain a Knick, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “It was a dream come true for me,” Thomas said. “My family is Knicks fans their whole lives. The opportunity I had to wear that uniform, to play in an arena of that magnitude — I had goosebumps every day I wore that uniform.”

Knicks Notes: Portis, Randle, Smith Jr., Westbrook

The way free agency played out came as no surprise to newly acquired Knicks big man Bobby Portis, relays Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Portis said was certain in February that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were planning to team up in Brooklyn for the Nets.

“We all knew that. Everybody knew that,” he said. “I just don’t think the media knew that. Us basketball players, we all knew that. … I’m not going to leak my source. But we all know where they were going.”

That decision eliminated one possibility for Portis, who wanted to play in New York. He said the Bucks, Wizards, Clippers and Lakers were among the teams that expressed interest, but his first choice was the Knicks, who needed help in their frontcourt. Portis was primarily a power forward in Chicago and a center in Washington and feels comfortable at either position.

“I’m (gonna) be playing in a beautiful city for the New York Knicks,” he said. “That’s a dream come true. … Being able to have a chance to play in Madison Square Garden for 41-plus nights, it’s a thrill. It’s what everybody dreams of as a kid. I’m ecstatic.”

There’s more today from New York City:

  • A “dream come true” is also how Julius Randle described his opportunity with the Knicks to Marc Berman of The New York Post. With a three-year, $61MM deal, Randle is the only one of New York’s six free agent additions to get a contract guaranteed beyond one season. “I had a lot of options,” Randle said. “I felt this opportunity for me was the greatest opportunity. The whole fan base that’s staving and hungry to win more than (any team) in the NBA.”
  • The Knicks are coming off a 17-win season and didn’t make the splash in free agency that fans were hoping for, but Dennis Smith Jr. expressed confidence to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News that they can be a playoff team. He cites not only an upgraded roster, but his own improved jump shot. Bondy notes that Smith is going to be challenged for the starting point guard role by the newly signed Elfrid Payton, who was drafted in Orlando by Knicks GM Scott Perry.
  • Russell Westbrook‘s age, salary and lack of efficiency make him too much of a risk for the Knicks, argues Tommy Beer of Forbes. New York has been among the teams rumored to have interest in Westbrook since news of the Paul George trade broke yesterday, but its free agents signings will make it difficult to put together a deal until they’re all eligible to be traded on December 15.

Draft Notes: White, Garland, Hawks, Bazley

The Knicks held a last-minute workout with North Carolina guard Coby White this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s the second significant workout in less than 24 hours for New York, which brought in Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland yesterday.

White was impressive in the private session, according to Ian Begley of SNY.TV (Twitter link), and the Knicks are prepared to trade down if they get the right offer. They have also worked out Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver and met with Duke’s Cam Reddish, but are still expected to select Duke’s R.J. Barrett if they remain at No. 3.

There’s more draft news as tonight’s event draws closer:

  • Some members of the Knicks organization believe Garland is a better prospect than Barrett, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The Pelicans have discussed teaming Barrett with his Duke pal, Zion Williamson, and may be willing to surrender an asset in addition to the fourth pick to trade up to No. 3. After yesterday’s workout, Garland met with Knicks president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry and coach David Fizdale.
  • If the Knicks draft a point guard, they may look to trade Dennis Smith Jr. along with Frank Ntilikina, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.
  • The Hawks might not be done moving second-round picks after sending No. 44 to the Heat yesterday and No. 41 to the Warriors this morning. Chris Vivlamore of the Journal-Constitution tweets that Atlanta’s selection at No. 35 is also available.
  • Darius Bazley appears to have a first-round promise from somebody, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Scouts tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Auburn’s Chuma Okeke, Oregon’s Bol Bol, Virginia’s Ty Jerome and Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford are being underrated in pre-draft reports.
  • Teams with late first-rounders are focusing on Villanova’s Eric Paschall, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, who expects him to be taken between 19th and 30th.

Knicks Notes: Zion, Kyrie, Kemba, Young Players

While Knicks head coach David Fizdale didn’t name the Duke forward specifically, he made it clear during an appearance this week on The Dan Patrick Show that if his team lands the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft lottery, Zion Williamson will be the choice.

“If we win the lottery, do we know who we’re taking?” Fizdale said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “Yes.”

Of course, if the Knicks do land that first overall selection, speculation about a possible Anthony Davis trade would only increase during the weeks leading up to the draft. Fizdale wasn’t asked about that scenario during his appearance on Patrick’s show, but ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider-only link) took a look this week at whether or not it would make sense to seriously consider moving Williamson if the Knicks grab that No. 1 spot.

In Pelton’s view, trading Williamson in a package for Davis would give the Knicks the best chance to win in the short term, but it’s unclear how well-suited the rest of the roster will be to contending immediately. Since Zion could be a part of a contending team in New York for years to come, Pelton would be inclined to hang onto him if the Knicks are lucky enough to draft him.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Now that Kyrie Irving‘s Celtics have been officially eliminated from the postseason, the Knicks are poised to be a part of the July conversation about the point guard’s potential free agent destinations, as Marc Berman of The New York Post details.
  • Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that some members of the Knicks’ organization on high on another free agent point guard, Kemba Walker. However, that interest likely wouldn’t matter much if Kevin Durant commits to New York and wants to team up with Irving, says Begley. According to Begley, some opposing executives believe that the Knicks will be willing to pursue any player Durant wants to play with if it ensures that KD will choose New York.
  • The Knicks will send their assistant coaches on the road in the coming days to work out with young players like Allonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, and Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell Begley. Kevin Knox and head coach David Fizdale have already met up for some offseason work, as the team has exhibited an increased focus on developing its prospects.

Knicks Notes: Roster, Robinson, Durant, Ewing

Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Damyean Dotson are the only current Knicks who should definitely be on the roster next season, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Knox showed enough promise at age 19 to hold onto, Robinson was a second-round surprise who became the league’s second-best shot blocker and Dotson is a part-time starter with an affordable contract.

Popper lists Dennis Smith Jr., who was acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, as a question mark, noting that his fate could depend on whether the Knicks are in position to draft Ja Morant or sign Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker in free agency. Also questionable to return, according to Popper, are Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier, Lance Thomas and Luke Kornet. Popper expects the rest of the roster to be overturned, including DeAndre Jordan, whom he speculates will be too pricey to re-sign as a back-up center.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Coach David Fizdale believes Robinson would be a lottery pick if last year’s draft were redone, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Fizdale admits he didn’t know much about Robinson when the Knicks grabbed him with the 36th pick, but he quickly blossomed into a force in the middle, swatting 2.44 shots per game. “I think we can all agree if we had to restructure the draft right now, I don’t think he’ll go 36,” Fizdale said. “I think he’d be in that top 10 pretty easily.”
  • LeBron James‘ disappointing first year with the Lakers should make Kevin Durant think twice about whether he wants join the Knicks, states Frank Isola of The Athletic. For all of Durant’s talent, he has a reputation as a highly sensitive player who might not adjust well to the atmosphere in New York. Isola suggests that he will only consider the Knicks if he can find another top-level free agent to join him.
  • Fizdale played a pivotal role in easing tensions between Patrick Ewing and the Knicks after years of a strained relationship, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ewing will represent the team at next month’s draft lottery.