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The Knicks are finally on the right track



Aidan Lising / Def Pen Sports

For the first time in New York, the New York knicks are gazing at their team the right way. Rather than being on the job, they are just about to get out of the way, they're pretty much over the past couple of years. Whether it's giving you a chance Allonso Trier is looking at the value of guys like Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh.

And those guys, are just about everyone's surprise, are responding with breakout performances.

Emmanuel Mudiay

Emmanuel Mudiay's career as his first game against the Houston Rockets Like a certain Denver Nuggets fan writing this article, it's hard to describe just how it got for Mudiay. After he was drafted seventh in the 2015 NBA Draft to the Denver Nuggets and cast as the savior of their franchise, he had a rough two and a half years.

The Nuggets were basically bleeding every time he got in the game: he had a 43.7 true-shooting percentage his rookie year, which is basically unheard of. He turned the ball over almost every time he touched it. He could not play defense or finish around the rim.

That is, until the New York Knicks took a shot at him during last year's trade deadline. Since arriving in New York, Mudiay has been a surprisingly effective starter and is now boasting a 0.7 offensive box plus-minus score, which is the highest of his career by a country mile. For the first time in his career, he looks like he belongs to the NBA.

In Denver, he never shot Well, from anywhere on the floor to be an effective playmaker, and because defenses knew he could not ever punish them outside the paint, they could basically neutralize everything he did well. In New York, however, that does not seem to be the case.

It's a fairly routine move, but it's a shot that he would not have been able to hit just a few years ago, and it's helping him consistently generate easy open. When he hits a few of those when his game starts to get really interesting for the Knicks.

He's not hitting 3-pointers very well – just 31.5 percent on the year – but now that's on fire from the midrange – 44.6 percent this season – he'll demand some level of attention from defenses. And that attention is letting him use his elite physical tools and stellar court vision in ways we have not seen from him before. He always had the feel and the length to make clear, but he could say that they were neutral. With an added layer of unpredictability,

It's not just the highlights that are impressive this year; it's the simple passes he made before. Arguably the biggest improvement in his game is the newfound patience he's playing with this year. Rather than try to force the issue and turn the ball over a million times per game as he did with the Nuggets, he's calmed down with the ball and he starts to make the easy passes that almost always lead to buckets. Luke Kornet with a basic pass that sets him up for easy 3.

Before we get too high on Mudiay though, it's worth mentioning that this could all be a prolonged hot streak. He's shooting five-to-ten percentage points better in almost every single midrange zone, and he's had stretches like this in the past before he inevitably comes back to earth. The one thing that separates this streak from the others is the confusion. Noah Vonleh

Designed Mudiay's plane ticket to China his second season, Vonleh's talent was always pretty clear. He had the fluid and mobility of a small forward, he could handle the ball like a guard, he could rebound like a big, and he was a legitimate threat from outside. The only thing missing was the opportunity to grow. Marvin Williams (lol). Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless: It's Not Coming to Portland.

One of the most fascinating things about Vonleh is that he has the skills to attack his or her own in New York City. Domantas Sabonis here:

He can slip screenshot and hit spot-up 3s like he does here:

He can get into the post and use his / her body to get where he wants to go with the touch around the basket.

The best part is that he gives the Knicks real, sustainable production. He has a stellar 57.5 true shooting percentage on a career-high 8.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. His game is almost certainly mesh with Porzingis' when he comes back and forms one of the most dynamic frontcourts in the league. Allonzo Trier

Drafting Allonzo Trier might have made the savage move the Knicks have made in the past few years. DeAndre Ayton showed up at the University of Arizona and stole most of the shine from Trier. On paper, he always had the tools to make a spark off the bench at the NBA level, but concerns about a PED scandal that sat him for his sophomore year and a more retro style game June.

Despite the baggage he carried, the Knicks saw enough in him to take a chance and give him a two-way deal. And boy, has he delivered. Through 36 games this season, he's averaging 9.7 points per game on a solid 53.6 true shooting percentage. Trier looks like the child of prospect who could make a spark off the bench for the Knicks down the line. Throughout his brief NBA career, he's shown an assortment of different tools to get his shot off.

Though he's not a great shooter by any stretch of the imagination, he's shown some talent as a pull-up jump shooter. 18-foot pull-up:

Ideally, he'd have taken a slightly better shot there, but the ability to attack in the pick-and-roll and pull up for a jumper is always a good thing. It's not like it's from the midrange, though. He already has a crack for getting to the free-throw line – 4.9 attempts per 36 minutes – and understands how to throw his body around to create good looks for himself around the rim. That's a big reason why he's shooting 59.3 percent from that area this season.

And how he gets the ball in transition, pushes through the paint, goes right through Quinn Cook and hits a smooth layup:

Perhaps most importantly for the Knicks, Trier has come to believe that he can not into their own. He's a capable enough 3-point shooter – 36.2 percent on 2.7 attempts per 36 minutes this season – to attract defensive attention and create some gravity.

Trier still has glaring holes in his game that complicate his true value to a non-ball. contending team, but his production has been a huge win for a franchise that has not had a lot of them.

The fact that the Knicks are looking like misused talents like Mudiay and Anleh is an awesome sign for New York fans. Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but they need guys around them who can take the team to the next level.

Sure, the aforementioned players deserve a ton of credit for building their games back up and turning into the best opportunities to succeed. Especially because this is not something the knicks have ever really done. Since the beginning, the Knicks have been chasing stars, they have not been in a row, and have not been able to do that. This could have been stuck in their pseudo-exceptionalism since Patrick Ewing was there in the 1990s.


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