DSJ and Payton officially out; Frank may start

David Fizdale just made official what we all figured, which is that both Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton will not only be unable to play for the Knicks in Orlando Wednesday night, but on Friday night in Boston as well.

The only thing that remains to be seen is who gets the start at point guard. It would seem that the head coach can go with one of three options, both of which involve starting Mitch, Mook, Julius and RJ:

  • Start Frank, have him and Barrett split the lead ball-handling duties with the starters, pull Ntilikina early, and then insert him back in to handle the offense solo once Barrett sits;
  • Start Wayne Ellington, who livened up the offense both in Brooklyn and again versus Chicago, and have Frank Ntilikina sub in early if/when the lead guard responsibilities start to overwhelm Barrett; or
  • Throw us all for a loop and put in Damyean Dotson or Allonzo Trier, so as to keep the second unit intact and try to replicate the outstanding effort that fivesome (Frank, Wayne, Knox, Taj and Crazy Eyes) had on Monday night.

None of these would surprise me. Personally, I’d still advocate for switching out Marcus Morris for Wayne Ellington in the starting five, and fill in the blanks from there, preferably with Dot starting, and Frank quickly coming off the bench to replace literally anyone from the starting unit as the situation dictates, followed by Knox, Mook, and Portis, with Taj ready to sub in if needed. Maybe Trier sees time.

(FWIW, the Knicks’ best two-man combo that’s seen over 50 minutes this season has been Morris and Portis with a net rating of +11.5 in 54 minutes. Way too small a sample size to really draw any conclusions though.)

This is an odd 10/11-man rotation, and it’s a little unbalanced in terms of starting speed vs bench size, but what the hell. Give it a shot.

For more on the point guard situation, check out (and subscribe to) the Knicks Film School newsletter and check out today’s edition.

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