Frank Ntilikina

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Knicks signing Elfrid Payton to two-year, $16M contract

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Last summer, the Pelicans signed Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton and insisted the team improved.

Now, the Knicks can try making the same case.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Bobby Marks of ESPN:

Presumably, Payton will also have a team option for next season. The Knicks maintain plenty of flexibility.

They just lack good players.

New York will likely stink again next season.

Payton will join Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina as young point guards who are falling behind the curve of desired development as they age. It’s not too late for any of them, but the progress so far hasn’t been encouraging.

The 25-year-old Payton has already fallen out of favor with the Magic, Suns and Pelicans. He has skills as a driver, distributor and rebounder (triple-doubles!). But he’s a minus as a 3-point shooter and defender, making him a tough fit on both ends.

He should be happy with this payday, even if it includes a likely-to-be declined team option.

As for the Knicks… nobody tell them how it went in New Orleans.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

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When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.

Knicks’ point guard Frank Ntilikina expected to miss rest of season

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina is expected to miss the rest of the season with a groin injury, ending a disappointing second year for the former lottery pick.

Ntilikina had just returned from a nearly two-month absence but left again during a loss to the Clippers on Sunday because of more soreness. The Knicks say Friday that after a subsequent evaluation, the team’s medical staff recommends he not play again this season.

Ntilikina has appeared in just 43 games, averaging 5.7 points. The No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft was the final selection made by Phil Jackson as team president.

The native of Belgium played professionally in France. However, he hasn’t developed an offensive game and struggled to crack first-year coach David Fizdale’s lineup even when healthy.

Dennis Smith Jr. and second chances

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The Knicks got a lot in their trade of Kristaps Porzingis. Double-max cap space next summer that could be used to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. An unprotected future first-round pick. Another likely first-rounder.

And Dennis Smith Jr.

Smith has been treated as an afterthought in New York’s return for Porzingis. That’s somewhat understandable when the trade puts established stars like Durant and Irving in play, but don’t just forget about the 21-year-old Smith.

“I’ve been overlooked before,” Smith said. “It’s nothing new. This is familiar territory for me.

“That’s why I’ve been in grind mode. I’ve been in grind mode since I stepped foot in New York. That’s what I’m all about.”

Smith was most infamously overlooked in the 2017 draft, when he fell to No. 9. The Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina one spot higher. LeBron James even said New York should have taken Smith.

To be fair, LeBron was feuding with then-Knicks president Phil Jackson. Jackson, in an incident that drew a lot of attention, pressured Smith into eating octopus at a pre-draft dinner meeting. Did Smith’s reluctance to try the octopus actually contribute to New York not drafting him?

“I hope not,” Smith said. “I ain’t for sure. But I hope that wasn’t the reason.”

It’s remarkable we can’t be certain of it not factoring. But that was the absurdity of Jackson’s tenure.

At least the Knicks get Smith now.

He even sometimes orders octopus for himself.

“I’ve got a little bit of money now,” Smith said.

Dallas drafted Smith, and his future there appeared promising. He scored 15.2 points per game as a rookie. Obviously, scoring isn’t everything, but it indicates a player’s stature, how much his team has entrusted him. When teams get someone young with Smith’s scoring average, they almost always build around him.

But the Mavericks acquired Luka Doncic in last year’s draft and are justly prioritizing him. Doncic is better and younger. Smith, who also fills a primary-ballhandler role, no longer fit.

Smith left Dallas averaging 14.5 points per game with the Mavericks. That’s one of the highest-scoring averages ever for someone with his original team who got traded or sold before the end of his second season:

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In Smith’s lifetime, only Michael Carter-Williams had a higher-scoring average with his original team then got traded before the end of his second season.

Smith is no longer the player I ranked No. 4 on my draft board or even the one who actually got picked in the top 10. His stock has rightfully dropped while in the league. He’s inefficient as a scorer, and he lacks complementary skills. His accuracy on 3-pointers is disappointingly low. His distributing lags well behind with his score-first approach.

But the reasons Smith looked so intriguing fewer than two years ago haven’t completely dissipated, either. He’s got nice handles and quickness, and he has the athleticism to finish above the rim. His inefficiency seems due more to shot selection than mechanics and is therefore likely an easier fix. Point guards tend to develop later.

In the meantime, Smith is losing prominence. He played in the Rising Stars Challenge last year but wasn’t invited back this year. Of the several dozen players who participated in that game as a rookie but weren’t selected as a sophomore, only three – Joe Johnson, Caron Butler and Chris Kaman – developed into All-Stars.

Smith wanted to return to All-Star Weekend this year, anyway. It’s in his native North Carolina, and his grandma is getting older. She wanted to see him there. So, after competing in last year’s dunk contest then declaring it wasn’t for him, he’ll re-enter.

“I kind of learned what it was about last year with all the extra gimmicks and things,” Smith said. “So, I have a couple myself.”

That’s where Smith wants the gimmicks to end.

Knicks fans can dream about Irving or even look to Kemba Walker as a fallback. Smith wants to earn the starting-point guard job for himself.

Right now, it has been handed to him on a barren roster. New York is tanking, biding time until its next era.

Maybe, just maybe, Smith will be an integral part of it.

“He really knows how to run a team,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “And we’re just getting started together, and I’m really excited for the future with him.”

Report: Anthony Davis equally as interested in Knicks as Lakers long-term

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When Anthony Davis requested a trade from the Pelicans, his agent, Rich Paul, said, “Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.”

Davis reportedly put out word he’d re-sign with only the Lakers. That made sense. Any team with LeBron James is already a championship contender, and Davis would lift Los Angeles even higher.

But the Knicks? The 10-43 Knicks? The Knicks who haven’t made the playoffs in five years and have won only one postseason series in 18 years?

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Armed with assets after the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Knicks could try to trade for Davis now. But that’d reduce their cap space next summer. The most-ambitious move would be signing two max free agents then trading for Davis.

A trade of Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, a guaranteed Damyean Dotson and a top-five pick for Davis projects to meet salary-matching requirements next offseason. If necessary, New York could also guarantee Lance Thomas‘ salary and/or exercise Allonzo Trier‘s team option to gain more salary ballast.

Davis, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – that’d be an instant contender.

But it’s a long way to making that dream reality.

First, it’s worth examining who’s leaking this now and why. Is it Davis trying to avoid the Celtics at all costs? With the Lakers falling out of the race now and maybe not having the patience just to wait for 2020 free agency, Davis might want to present another threat now. Is it the Pelicans trying to present the idea of another pre-deadline suitor? They can always wait for Boston, but it can’t hurt to see more offers now.

No matter the leaker’s agenda, this could also genuinely reflect Davis’ mindset. Which makes New York’s plan even more intriguing.