The future of the Knicks will be tested during the Las Vegas Summer League, and the stakes couldn't be higher for this young talent that GM Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills hope carry the team out of the dumps in the near future.
For draft picks, this is a chance to showcase why they were taken in the lottery. And for others on the roster, this is a chance to get rewarded with a contract if they can ball out. Even new head coach David Fizdale gets to display his expertise for the first time.
So, with the Knicks first game against the Hawks slated for this Saturday at 5:30 p.m., here are some players to watch in Vegas over the next couple weeks...
F Kevin Knox
This is the obvious player to watch for the Knicks, who will get their first look at the No. 9 overall pick from this year's draft.
Knox is expected to revitalize the Knicks' wing position that saw a drastic drop in production following the trade of Carmelo Anthony. The 6-foot-9 forward displayed his scoring abilities at Kentucky last season, leading the team in points with 15.6 per game. He has the ability to hit open jumpers as well as get to the rim.
He has already shown his situational awareness during practice.
However, the big question will see if Knox can be a two-way player Fizdale can trust to put in the starting lineup every night. Knox has Rookie of the Year aspirations, and his journey to that coveted award starts on Saturday.
PG Frank Ntilikina
The 19-year-old Ntilikina wanted to improve his offensive production in his second year, and he will hopefully showcase it in the Summer League as he returns for the second straight year.
Fizdale has been working closely with Ntilikina to try and instill a more aggressive mindset in his play.
"He's a good basketball player," Fizdale told Newsday's Al Iannazzone. "It's going to be a process with him of constantly emphasizing aggression and always be in 'Go mode' and don't be concerned as much about taking care of everybody and that his aggression will draw defenders to help him take care of everybody."
Ntilikina averaged just 5.9 points and 3.2 assists last season, and if he wants to make that next step in his early career, listening to Fizdale could do the trick. The Summer League will provide a glimpse as to what Fizdale wants from the French product this season.
C Mitchell Robinson
The Knicks' second-rounder is a huge mystery heading into Vegas. The reason? Well, Robinson didn't play at all in 2017.
Robinson decided not to enroll in Western Kentucky last season, and instead trained on his own in preparation for the Draft. SNY contributor Adam Zagoria did some digging and found out Robinson is a raw talent that has some maturity issues.
"He needs to be away from his people so he can mature, he's a good kid," one Division 1 assistant coach familiar with Robinson told SNY.tv. "He's talented and raw. He has defensive instincts and his physical traits are impressive. He's 7-feet with a 7-4 wingspan. With a young organization, he's worth a roll at No. 36."
Robinson will look to prove the Knicks right in drafting him by playing in his first games in over a year.
C Luke Kornet
If there is any returning Knick that has a chance to make a major impact this season, it's Kornet.
The undrafted center out of Vanderbilt spent most of his 2017 campaign with the Westchester Knicks after going undrafted. He ended up playing 20 games with New York, where he averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in his first taste of the NBA.
Kornet signed a one-year deal to remain with the Knicks, and if he impresses in the Summer League and training camp, he could play the backup role to Enes Kanter at the 5. With Kyle O'Quinn opting out of his contract, that position on the team is wide open.
It will be interesting to see how Kornet and Robinson battle for that backup role in Vegas.
G Allonzo Trier
The Knicks considered taking Trier at No. 36 overall, but opted for Robinson instead. Luckily, no other team chose him, and now the Knicks will get a first-hand look at the Arizona product.
The 6-foot-5 Trier was part of a stacked Wildcats team that underperformed in March Madness, but showcased major skill throughout the regular season. Trier was a key cog in the starting five, having averaged 18.1 points, 3.2 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Playing the guard position, Trier may not see time with the Knicks this season due to the backcourt being loaded. But, with his scoring ability, he could very well be in the conversation down the road. He will hope his Summer League proves that.