Allonzo Trier has showcased himself as a steal of the 2018 draft. An undrafted free agent from Arizona, Trier signed a two-way contract to join the Knicks. Following a strong summer league and preseason, Trier not only made the opening night 15 man roster, but played himself into the rotation as well.
This season, Trier is one of only four Knicks who has played in all 18 games, and is averaging 23.6 minutes per game. In that time, he’s shooting 46.8% from the field, 41.7% from three, and 88.7% from the free throw line. His 10.9 points per game ranks fourth on the team. That type of production is the best case scenario from an undrafted rookie. And Trier continues to produce more and more each night.
Per NBA rules, Trier can only spend a maximum of 45 days on the Knicks active roster with a two-way contract, which is set to expire in early December. That leaves the Knicks with a roster decision to make: since they absolutely have to guarantee Trier’s contract for the rest of the season, the Knicks will have to either trade or release a current player.
The most logical move would be to deal Courtney Lee. Lee, who’s missed the first 24 games this year with an ongoing neck issue, has just returned to the basketball court this past week. This certainly bodes well for the Knicks, as Lee is an asset that can be moved to a playoff team seeking a veteran 3-and-D type player. Lee is still signed for the 2019-2020 season at $12 million: a favorable contract for a player of his skill set.
As long as Lee can prove himself healthy over the next couple of weeks, the Knicks should have no shortage of suitors. Teams such as the Lakers, Thunder, Bucks, 76ers, Grizzlies, and Rockets could all use Lee to bolster their second units. With Fizdale committed to playing the younger players in the rotation, Lee would be the odd man out in New York regardless of whether or not he was healthy.
Another option is for the Knicks to part ways with Luke Kornet or Ron Baker. Both are on guaranteed deals, so the Knicks would have to eat dead money, but neither have factored much in the rotation. With three weeks until decision time, the Knicks have some leeway, but the end result is clear: keeping Trier long term is the move that needs to be made. Some unknowns remain, but be sure Scott Perry and Steve Mills will make a plan to keep “Iso Zo” in New York.