Damyean Dotson has shown steady growth from a second-round pick into an NBA rotation player who is trying to prove himself as a starter.
David Fizdale, in fact, deemed him “our most consistent player” this season.
Dotson went over the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season with 26 points on 10 of 19 shooting, which included 4 of 9 from three-point range in the Knicks loss at Minnesota. Dotson had another quick start to the game, with 13 points in the first quarter.
Fizdale said he has been pushing Dotson to have the mentality “where he comes right out of the gate putting pressure on the defense and really taking the challenge defensively.”
Since the All-Star break, Dotson has been doing exactly that. Almost 40% of his scoring has come in the first quarter since the break. He had 18 points in the first quarter on Feb. 22, the first game after the break which, coincidentally, came against Minnesota. Overall, he’s averaging 15.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 42.4% shooting from three-point range in 9 games since the break.
But while Fizdale may have said Dotson has been the most consistent player, it’s consistency that has plagued him — like several other young Knicks — this season. After struggling with his shooting (2 for 12, 0 for 4) against the Kings on Saturday, Dotson opened the game with a flurry of makes (5 for 8) to keep the Knicks competitive in an otherwise sloppy game.
“My shot was falling tonight,” Dotson said. “It wasn’t falling [against the Kings]. I tried my best to find a rhythm.”
He had that rhythm early with 16 points at the half, but there wasn’t much support from his backcourt mate, Dennis Smith Jr. (1 for 7 to start the game) and turnovers were once again a major issue (19 turnovers led to 27 points).
Again, the point guard spot was the focus of the issues, with a combined 10 turnovers by Smith Jr. (5) and Emmanuel Mudiay. Minnesota’s aggressive defense produced 13 steals and 10 blocked shots, which was very similar to the game against the T-Wolves at The Garden right out of the all-star break. Fizdale said he showed the team film of that game and warned against lazy interior passes.
“We understand that this is what this team does,” Fizdale said. “They get a lot of steals and a lot of deflections. Interior passes kill you. They steal those passes and, for whatever reason, we kept burning on our hand on the stove trying to make those passes.”
Fizdale called quick timeouts to constantly remind his guards about the scouting report. It was another frustrating night for the coaching staff.
A season like this for the Knicks (13-54) has generally focused on individual growth and small successes are all that’s left to look for when you’re a fan or a coach. Fizdale said he wants “to see guys advance in their roles.” There are a handful of players we’ve been discussing that have done that — Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, for the most part — and Dotson is another player in the conversation about next season.
He’s under contract for 2019-20, however his very affordable $1.6 million salary isn’t guaranteed. So if the Knicks need the cap space, he could be waived. But the Knicks, who have only five players on fully guaranteed contracts next season, are going to need players. Dotson, who turns 25 in May, has proven, at the very least, to be a keeper not just based on production and two-way versatility, but work ethic and character.
– Kevin Knox was looking to build off some positives with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 27:26. He shot the ball well (5 for 11) for the first time in a while. He didn’t have to face Andrew Wiggins (left thigh contusion) but fellow rookie Keita Bates-Diop had a breakout game (18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) against him.
Knox, the second youngest player in the NBA (he won’t turn 20 until August), has looked physically overwhelmed a lot over the last few months. He said he has been coping with the exhausting schedule and Fizdale has challenged him to overcome the fatigue and fight through the adversity of his play. It should be pointed out that he has played in 57 straight games and has made 42 straight starts.
Since he became the full-time starter on Dec. 12, Knox has played the second-most minutes by a rookie (31.8 minutes per game) to Luka Doncic (32.2). He is still seventh in scoring among rookies (13.7 points per game) and 4th in field goal attempts (12.3). He and Collin Sexton are the only two rookies in the top 10 in FGAs to be under 40% in shooting. Strength and conditioning seem to be the first hurdle for Knox to jump in his first offseason as a pro. It will be interesting to see how much work he puts in and how much of a difference it makes next season.
– Trier followed up an 0 for 5 from three performance against the Kings to get right back to Wally Szczerbiak “flamethrower” status against Minnesota (4 for 5) as he scored 15 points off the bench. Trier’s shooting numbers are not just among the best of any rookie this season, but among any rookies. His slash line after 60 games this season is a solid 45.5% FG/ 41.3% 3PT/ 80.9% FT. He’s only the 2nd rookie with at least a 45/41/80 slash line (with at least 100 3PA) in the last 8 years. The only other rookie who shot the ball that efficiently is Jayson Tatum (47.5/43.4/82.6) of the Celtics, last season. Other rookies over the last 25 years who have had similar slash lines include Steph Curry, Brent Barry, Hersey Hawkins and Drazen Petrovic.
– I often call it the “Wally Slash Line” after my studio partner, Wally Szczerbiak. For his career, Wally’s shooting numbers provide the standard on how you judge good shooting. Over a 10-year NBA career, Wally shot 48.5% FG/ 40.6% 3PT/ 86.0% FT. But he didn’t make our list above because as a rookie his three-point shooting fell under the cut. Still, look at this slash line for a rookie: 51.1% FG/ 35.9% 3PT/ 82.6% FT. Now that’s a flamethrower! There is statistical evidence that he also passed the ball, but no one can find any footage.
[Watch the Knicks Battle the Pacers Tuesday at 6:30 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]