By JAIME C. HARRIS
Special to the AmNews
This is how Knicks general manager Scott Perry presented the team’s signings of veteran forward Reggie Bullock and Marcus Morris Tuesday, July 16:
“With Reggie and Marcus we are adding two more versatile, hard-nosed and accomplished players to an already improved roster,” said Perry. “We value both players’ perimeter shooting ability and their strong presence on the court and in the locker room. We’re excited to have them in New York and are confident they will excel playing for this team under Coach Fizdale.”
The pair is part of a group of seven free-agents the Knicks inked that also includes forward Julius Randle, Bobby Portis Jr. and Taj Gibson, as well as guards Wayne Ellingtoin and Elfrid Payton Jr.
An analysis of the Knicks’ current roster begs the questions, who will comprise the starting lineup when the regular season begins in a little over three months and who will be fazed out of Fizdale’s rotation as the season progresses?
Furthermore, the most pressing concern for Knicks fans with the addition of seven free-agents is how will they impact the development of the young players? Second-year center Mitchell Robinson, who was named to the NBA Summer League First Team and concluded the regular season with the honor of NBA All-Rookie Second Team, Kevin Knox, who played 75 games a season ago, starting 57, and 2019 first round pick RJ Barrett, selected third overall by Knicks, are a priority for the organization and if healthy should be the recipients of significant playing time.
Knicks president Steve Mills, Perry and Fizdale are staking much of the franchise’s ability to attract the league’s best free-agents—who they missed out on this summer—or obtain the game’s top players by a trade demand in the same manner the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, by growing the capacity and as a result the value of Robinson, Knox and Barrett.
The impending status of Frank Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall in 2017 by former Knicks president Phil Jackson, is much more dubious. Ntilikina is entering the final year of his rookie contract—the Knicks have a $6.17 million team option for the 2020-21 season—and hasn’t establish himself as undoubtedly being a central figure in the Knicks’ rebuilding plans as is Robinson, Knox and Barrett.
Jackson envisioned Ntilikina, who will turn only 21 July 28, as a starting two-way point guard who would be productive on the offensive end and a potential NBA All Defensive team performer. While he has shown the ability to reach the latter level, his offense has been slow in developing, particularly at the point. Fizdale used him more as a combo guard and Ntilikina began to make strides with less ball handling duties before a groin injury limited him to only 43 games.