Keep or Cut: Allonzo Trier
Continuing on with my weekly Keep or Cut series (where I previously looked at the Knicks' two-way players and a couple of vets that are probably gonezo), this week I'll be taking a look at one of the Knicks' more polarizing players among fans and media: Allonzo Trier.
Trier came to the Knicks as a two-way player, undrafted out of Arizona in the 2018 draft. He quickly established himself as a guy that looked like a clear-cut, bucket-getting NBA player, prompting the Knicks to make room for him on the roster and sign him to a two-year, $6.93 million deal on the regular roster in December 2018.
After picking up the second year option on Trier's deal when they struck out in free agency, it seemed like Trier was set to continue developing his game and hopefully become an impact player for the Knicks after he posted 10.9 points per game on 56.4% true shooting his rookie season. During the summer, everything looked to be heading that way, including "Iso-Zo" looking to do more without the ball in his hands.
“It’s something Coach talked to me about,” Trier said in a piece from The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov over the summer. “‘You shoot it so good.’ And the front office talked to me about I need to shoot more 3s off the catch, as soon as I can get it let it fly. They said you have such a beautiful stroke and shoot such a high percentage that you have to get more off so you can get — according to analytics, the more I get off and I shoot at a high percentage then it’ll be good for us. Not only myself but as a basketball team, so that’s one thing I’ve been focused on doing.”
Then, the season started, and Trier surprisingly drew the start at point guard for the first game. He promptly played himself to the bench after, appearing in just 24 of the Knicks' 66 games despite not having any noteworthy injury issues.
Why was that? Well, for one, Trier wasn't playing a very team-first brand of basketball. He also didn't show any of catch-and-shoot ability and movement without the ball that he had apparently been directed to work on over the summer.
Through it all, though, his shooting numbers remained solid. Trier shot 48.1% from the field, 35.8% from deep and 79.1% from the free throw line for the season, all among the highest on the team, particularly for guards. The problem was, the offense tended to come to a halt with him out there, and his status as a defensive liability for most of his appearances doomed him to being a negative player — it's an imperfect stat, but Trier finished the season with the fifth-worst average plus/minus on the team at -3. (Below him? Julius Randle [-3.8], Taj Gibson [-4.2], Dennis Smith Jr. [-5.7] and RJ Barrett [-5.8]. See? Imperfect.)
If Trier had done more of what he set out to do in the offseason on offense, however, maybe the results would have been better and kept him on the court more. According to NBA Stats, Trier took 1.1 attempts per game of both catch-and-shoot and pull-up threes. On catch-and-shoot, he shot a robust 40.7%. Pulling up, that number dropped to 30.8%.
Trier was often used as a "break in case of emergency" guard during times when the Knicks' offense got extra stagnant. Presumably the logic was, "Well, we're already not moving the ball, so why not put in the best iso scorer on the team?" A lot of times, Trier would come in and score a few points, but it wouldn't do anything to move the baseline for the Knicks.
Probably the most emblematic game of the 2019-20 Trier experience was Dec. 2 against Milwaukee, where Trier scored an efficient 10 points on 3-5 shooting... but his matchups on defense shot 4-4 against him and he was an abysmal -15 in just under 12 minutes.
To be fair to Trier, he came in late in the season for the Knicks and managed to string together a number of good efforts where he showed a lot more on defense than he had for the rest of the season. Could the final 16 games have given Trier more of a chance to prove himself as a complete player? It's seeming increasingly less likely that the Knicks will play another game in the 2019-20 season, so that question will probably go unanswered.
So now that leads to the question of this series... Keep or cut? Trier is a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning the Knicks can match any offer that he gets on the open market. But at this point, should they?
Trier's playing time was inconsistent, and his behavior off the court seemed to be too. In a piece by SNY's Ian Begley earlier this season, he was praised by teammates for being supportive despite being benched. At another point of the season, however, Trier was liking comments by people on Twitter bashing RJ Barrett to prop Trier up.
Ultimately, it just seems like maybe Trier needs a new team and a new lease on life. The Knicks will likely be drafting another guard or two with their three upcoming draft picks, which just stands to further bury Trier on the depth chart and sow discord.
Keep or cut: Cut. Even if Trier gets a modest offer in restricted free agency, it's probably best to just let him go at this point.