The starting lineup of the New York Knicks could be seeing some changes far before free agency next summer.
It’s not nearly as exciting as the prospect of seeing the likes of Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving in a Knicks jersey in 2019, but it could help head coach David Fizdale piece together the supporting cast around those big names along with the returning Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks have played just four games this season but it’s already becoming clear that Fizdale’s best group is coming off the bench.
The combination of Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, Damyean Dotson and rookie Allonzo Trier have a plus-29 point differential over the 41 minutes they’ve played together this year. They helped spark one of two Knicks comebacks on Monday night in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, going on a 12-1 run to help erase a 32-19 deficit early in the second quarter.
Trey Burke was responsible for the Knicks’ third-quarter surge, erasing a 19-point deficit behind the starting point guard’s 16 points during the frame.
Three of those four reserves, Hezonja, Vonleh and Trier, though are new arrivals via free agency. Trier went undrafted before signing a two-way deal with the Knicks this summer.
Hezonja had his best game as a Knick against the Bucks, posting 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting as he’s created a solid partnership with the center Vonleh, who dropped 11 points and added five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Trier has taken advantage of the injuries suffered by Courtney Lee and Emmanuel Mudiay to etch a place coming off the bench. He’s averaged 10.5 points per night over his first four games as a pro. Dotson has joined him in the backcourt, posting 10 and 14 points respectively in his last two games.
Realistically, Vonleh, Dotson or Trier won’t be slotted into the starting lineup as long as everyone stays healthy. Enes Kanter has the center spot bolstered down while Tim Hardaway Jr. has been the offense’s most productive player, averaging 27.0 points per game this year.
But Hezonja could very well take Lance Thomas’ spot at the power forward position. Thomas is averaging just 3.3 points in 18 minutes per game which is not enough even for a defense-first player.
The Knicks are back in action Wednesday night when they visit the Miami Heat.