Entering the 2018-19 season, all eyes in New York were on Kevin Knox. The Knicks took the young swingman with the ninth pick of the 2018 draft, and with the team in rebuild mode, many thought he’d be able to contribute right away. His fellow rookies even saw him as one of the leading contenders for Kia Rookie of the Year.
Things haven’t exactly panned out for Knox just yet. The Kentucky product is averaging 7.5 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18 minutes per game while shooting just 32.5 percent. Coach David Fizdale is sticking by his 19-year-old prospect, but it’s clear the trust isn’t there as Knox played just 32 minutes total in the three games prior to Wednesday. (Knox did log 23 minutes in last night's 117-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.)
“I love the way the team keeps rallying around him and pushing him,” Fizdale said. “I’m going to keep throwing him out there, getting him battle tested. But this is where it’s at. He has to go through this and teams aren’t going to let up. He has to keep learning, going back to the film, going back to the practice court, jumping into the fire. And I think in the end he’s going to turn out to be pretty dang good.”
But it’s not all bad news in New York. Their second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson, has been solid on defense despite dealing with constant foul trouble. The 36th pick in the Draft has the size (7-foot-1) and athleticism to become a serviceable big man, but for now he’s a project that’s showing signs of promise while playing 17.3 minutes per game.
The biggest revelation, though, has been Allonzo Trier, an undrafted guard who has come in with a chip on his shoulder and become a fixture late in games. The 6-foot-5 guard out of Arizona is averaging 12 ppg and 3.2 rpg while shooting 48.7 percent overall and 45 percent on 3-pointers.
Unlike Knox, Trier clearly has earned the trust of Fizdale, who played him the entire fourth quarter Friday (he had eight points, six rebounds in the frame) to help New York beat the New Orleans Pelicans. Trier is second on the Knicks in fourth-quarter points (94 on 51.6 percent shooting) and leads in minutes played (196 minutes, Tim Hardaway Jr. is a distant second at 143 minutes).
Trier’s two-way contract, which gives the Knicks 45 days before they have to guarantee his deal, is up next week, meaning the Knicks will have to clear a roster spot to keep him around. Based on his performance so far, there’s no way the Knicks won’t reward their breakout rookie.
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1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Last week: No. 1
Doncic only had two games in the last week, but put up solid numbers in both. The leading rookie scorer scored 15 with eight assists to lead Dallas to a 113-104 win over Boston, then scored 20 with six rebounds in just three quarters as the Mavs cruised to a 128-108 win in Houston. Doncic was 6-for-11 from the field Wednesday, hitting three 3-pointers, including a crazy fallaway over James Harden and a 40-footer to beat the first-half buzzer. With Ayton putting up a dud Wednesday night in L.A., Doncic hangs on to the top rung.
2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Last week: No. 2
Ayton disappeared in Wednesday night’s 115-99 loss to the Clippers, scoring four points with nine rebounds and three blocks. The clunker was out of character for Ayton, who had scored in double-digits in his previous 11 games and had double-doubles in three of his last four games before Wednesday. Even with the dud, Ayton’s body of work is hard to overlook and he still averaged 16 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in four games this week.
3. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
Last week: Not ranked
The Cavs’ point guard has clearly flipped a switch. He has now scored in double-digits in 10 straight games and has been the best rookie scorer over the past week, putting up 21 ppg on 48.7 percent shooting. He’s also grabbed 6.5 rpg and three apg (against 2.8 turnovers per game) over the four-game span as the Cavs got wins in Philadelphia and at home over the Rockets. "He continues to get better," coach Larry Drew said. "There's going to be some games where he won't be as good from a shooting standpoint. But his effort is there every single night, he plays with a lot of energy. He's continuing to grow and learn. That's the most important thing for him right now coming in as a rookie because it's tough enough to come in at that position as a rookie. He's doing well with it.”
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers
Last week: No. 3
The Clippers have won three straight, and their rookie has been key. In those three games, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 4.3 apg. He’s playing almost 30 minutes a night and rose to coach Doc Rivers’ challenge in Portland on Sunday, helping stifle the Blazers’ backcourt and rally LA to a 104-100 win. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10 of his 12 points in a key third-quarter run. His numbers aren’t as impressive as some of the other rookies around him, but being a leader of a first-place team at the age of 20 earns him some serious credit in these rankings.
5. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Last week: Not ranked
Bagley picked the right time to release a music video, aptly titled “Look At Me Now”. Bagley is having one of the best stretches of his young career, averaging 19 ppg and 11.5 rpg in 32 mpg in his only two games this week. He’s scored in double-digits in his last five games, averaging 16 ppg, 10 rpg and 1.6 bpg in that span. It’s becoming more and more clear that Bagley will be key to the Kings’ future, and he’s become one of their biggest assets off the bench as they’ve run out to a 10-10 record.
Just missed the cut:
Allonzo Trier, New York Knicks
In four games this week, Trier averaged 16.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg while shooting 52.2 percent (and 4-for-7 on 3-pointers). He’s currently seventh among rookies in scoring (11.8 ppg)
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Jackson stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, six rebounds and seven blocks in the Grizzlies' loss to the Knicks, which followed a 20-point, seven rebound night in a loss to the Clippers. Jackson ended the week disappearing against Toronto, playing just 19 minutes and finishing with four points and two rebounds while dealing with foul trouble.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Young falls out of the Top 5 this week for the first time, but it’s more a credit to the other rookies stepping up their games. Young helped Atlanta win two of their last three this week, highlighted by a 17-point, 10-assist showing in a 115-113 win in Miami. Even more eye-popping were the five steals Young has over his last three games.
Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls
Carter has come down to earth a little bit over the last 10 days as he’s scored in double-digits just twice in his last six games. In four games this week, he averaged eight points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting just 35.5 percent.
Landry Shamet, Philadelphia 76ers
Shamet scored in double-digits in three of the Sixers' last four games, averaging 11.5 points on 57.7 percent shooting. Shamet struggles at the defensive end, but he’s 11-for-19 from 3-point land in his last four games (57.9 percent) and gives the Sixers a deadly wing scorer when JJ Redick rests.
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(All stats through Wednesday, Nov. 28)
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