With the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster and the All-Star festivities in the rearview mirror, Knicks fans can take some inventory on their reshaped roster. Outside of lottery implications, New York's remaining games seem meaningless at first glance, but they serve as a glimpse into the potential of this young core.
With a month and change to go in the regular season, here's who has ticked upward and slid downward in recent games:
On the rise
It's entirely possible last year's second-round pick could keep them from securing a higher first-round pick this year. He's had that kind of impact on New York as of late, notably on the defensive end.
Robinson averaged 3.2 blocks per game in February in 23 minutes a night, but more impressive is his 1.2 blocks per game on shots beyond 10 feet. New York has allowed 2.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court over the same stretch.
He can swat nearly anything, and his situational awareness, especially compared to other developing big men, is promising. He's shown the ability to switch out and lock down guards, or get his fingers on a shot when the handler backs up and pulls up for a jumper. (Because who wants to drive on the 7-foot-1 force that is Robinson?)
This package is not one expected out of a rookie who was initially considered a project. Robinson has already made tangible leaps in his limited minutes this season, and his potential should have Knicks fans giddy.
Dotson doesn't have Robinson's impact or Dennis Smith Jr.'s highlights, but he's quietly upped his performance and is beginning to look like a legitimate dual-end threat. His 3-point percentage is now at 38.1 on the year, but he's been a consistent option from deep for a few months now. What's come of this last month has been some higher volume: four consecutive double-digit scoring nights and 47 points between the last two of those games.
Dotson made 13 of 22 3-pointers in those contests. A few of these 3s came from a foot or two behind the arc, showing off some extra floor spacing. The second-year wing also looked more comfortable stepping in for mid-range pull-ups when his defenders overplayed the 3, and he attacked the rim with deft every so often as well. These are all things that make up the perfect role player. And if Dotson can continue to build on these, he'll become one sooner rather than later.
The Knicks quickly capitalized on their 10-day treasure hunting, locking down Ellenson through 2020 if he pans out. So far, so good; Ellenson is stroking it from deep, aiding on the boards and displaying a nice feel for the game. He and John Jenkins play well off each other in moving to open spaces and allowing others to cut or operate with the ball.
On the decline
Things just haven't gotten much better. Maybe he needs better players around him to make plays off of. Maybe he isn't a freelance player and would operate better with plays run for him. Maybe it's just still too early, but Knox is still struggling to string some solid performances together.
His shooting meanders around the low 30s from the field, often lower. He's worse form deep, even though his jumper can look pure. His peak performances provide hope in what he's capable of, but then again he has 20-point games when he takes as many shots. His defense can be cringeworthy at times. His talent is there, buried under these early-career flaws: taking off a bit too early on drives, not getting quite set for the open 3, failing to draw fouls at the rim.
Something needs to change. March and April basketball are great times for a raw prospect to make small strides or at least garner confidence and a better feel against more lax and tanking opponents. It would be nice to see Knox step up.