• Alex Bisaillon

First Year Focus: Allonzo Trier

NY Daily News

This column will examine one standout rookie performer each week, whether it be a contender for Rookie of the Year or a first year player maximizing their limited minutes and proving to be worthy of a greater role. Apologies in advance, but Ben Simmons will not be featured.

In the first two iterations of First Year Focus, I looked at a pair of blue blood prospects who were expected to be making the substantial impacts they have thus far. But this week, let’s examine someone who was well off the draft radar, yet has flourished thus far in the NBA. Allonzo Trier has come on strong to start his career for the New York Knicks, outshining more hyped rookie teammate Kevin Knox and helping make Knick basketball palatable with Kristaps Porzingis out.

Trier went undrafted after a turbulent three year college career at the University of Arizona, where he missed time due to a PED suspension his sophomore year and was dogged by the threat on another suspension for much of his junior year. He allegedly had offers to go in the second-round, but preferred to go on a two-way contract to the Knicks, wisely realizing the bevvy of opportunities the Knicks would have this year.

Trier foreshadowed his early season success with a strong showing in the NBA Summer League, although he was overshadowed by teammates Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox. The summer success has translated into an early season breakout for Trier. The 22-year-old guard has posted 11.4 points per game on 48% from the field and 39% from three point range through 14 games so far. In the seven games he’s posted double figures, Trier has shot a sterling 57% from the field (38-66) and 50% from three point range (9-18). The Knicks have won four of those seven contests, their only four victories so far this year.

The basis of Trier’s game is his ability to score the ball, and he’s shown that skill translates to the NBA. Trier is already adept at finishing at the rim and from the midrange with the pull-up, and he uses his top-notch ball handling to create angles to the rim. Although he’s not overly athletic, at least not by the ridiculous standards of the NBA, Trier is smart about leveraging his body to get through contact and finish. This type of feel inside is a trait usually reserved for veterans, so Trier’s rapid adjustment to NBA length portends a bright future for him.

Even with his early season success, Trier has been extremely inconsistent, tallying single digit scoring totals in half of his fourteen games so far and negative plus minus in all but one of those games. This is revealing of the simple truth that he needs to score consistently to have any value at this point, as he does not contribute enough in any other facet of the game at this point. His three-point shot could also use some work, as his successful percentage thus far comes at a low volume of 1.6 attempts per game. He is also currently averaging more turnovers than assists per game, a concerning stat for any guard. All of this goes into the fact that Trier will have to prove he isn’t simply a flash in the pan putting up empty numbers for a mediocre Knicks squad.

Going forward, his early season play should earn Trier a ton of playing time in the New York backcourt for the rest of the season. He’ll have to prove he’s a building block for the team next to Kristaps Porzingis before what Knick fans surely hope will be an active 2019 free agency period. If he doesn’t improve his game much from its current level, Trier could still be a high-level contributor as a ball-handling sixth man and offensive spark plug, but if he cleans up some of the holes in his game the potential is there for the undrafted Trier to be a legitimate starter in the league and a candidate for making an All-Rookie team this year.

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