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Allonzo Trier is Earning His Spot

Allonzo Trier seems poised for a big rookie year. Can the New York Knicks make room in the rotation to accommodate his skillset?

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Allonzo Trier made a lot of fans Wednesday night.

And if he continues to perform how he did against the Brooklyn Nets in only his second time on a NBA floor, his fan base will only continue to grow.

Trier displayed a versatile offensive game in the Knicks’ second preseason game. He tallied 25 points – 20 of which were scored in the first half – in 26 minutes. Most impressively, he scored in a multitude of ways: pull-up jump shots, buzzer-beater three-pointers, step-back jumpers and layups in traffic. He showed a knack for getting into the paint, absorbing contact and scoring the ball.

But it hasn’t been an easy road for the former Arizona Wildcat. He signed with the Knicks on July 3 after going undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. He was projected by most as a second-round pick prior to the previous year’s draft, although some pundits pegged him as high as a fringe lottery pick.

But a second positive test for the performance enhancing substance Ostarine hurt his draft stock enough to deter him from entering the draft.

The penalties handed down as a result were ultimately overturned after details of the positive test indicated that the substance in question was ingested accidentally, and possibly even years prior to it. Unfortunately, Trier’s draft stock never recovered and he slipped past all 60 picks in the this year’s class.

However, if Trier’s college career is any indication, he should ready himself for continued success.

He was a 2018 first-team All Pac-12 player. In his three years at Arizona, he increased his scoring average with each season, racking all the way up to 18.1 points per game in his junior year. He was one of only three players in the nation to finish the 2018 regular season shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 85 percent at the free throw line. He wrapped up his Arizona career with 1,307 points in 78 appearances (16.8 ppg), ranking 27th on the school’s all-time points list.

Trier has been seen as a scorer for the majority of his young career, but he was never viewed as an elite athlete or an ultra-skilled prospect like Collin Sexton or Luka Doncic – likely why he slipped out of the draft. Instead, he was categorized as a special college player whose game might not translate perfectly well to the NBA. Still, that begs the question – why were NBA front offices so low on a kid that has proven himself to be a building block for a storied NCAA program for three consecutive years?

Regardless, it now seems as though Trier must prove himself all over again. He joins a crowded backcourt that features eight other shooting guards, including Steve Mills’ 2017 free agent signing– Tim Hardaway Jr. – and the under-appreciated and disgruntled Courtney Lee. It will be challenging for him to carve out meaningful time in the regular season, unless he continues to do exactly what he did on Wednesday.

But staying motivated won’t be hard for a young man hell-bent on showing the league that he belongs. According to the New York Post immediately following the draft, Trier said it was “absolutely shocking” that he went undrafted.

“I definitely believe I belong in this league and I can play and I’m as good as all these guys who were drafted,” Trier said.

Trier definitely began to prove the he belongs on Wednesday night. Following the above-referenced game and stat line, Knicks head coach David Fizdale praised him and said he wouldn’t do too much when it comes to over-coaching.

“They call him Iso Zo,” Fizdale said. “I’m going to let the kid be who he is. Some kids are just naturals. He’s a natural scorer. I’m smart enough to know when to stay out of the way.”

While going undrafted could hurt a young man’s confidence, it seems to have motivated Trier.

The Knicks’ roster is at capacity with 15 spots being spoken for by guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals. The Knicks could keep Trier on his two-way contract, which restricts the time he can spend with an NBA club to 45 days, or they can make room on the roster.

There is the Joakim Noah contract after all, whose status with the Knicks has been in limbo for some time. Rumors suggest Noah will be bought out using the stretch provision prior to the start of the regular season. If the club proceeds with the buyout, they would be wise to lock Trier into an affordable, longer-term deal now before he propels his value higher.

While Knicks fans should probably temper their expectations – after all, this is all based on two preseason games and summer league – it is certainly encouraging to see the Knicks’ draft strategy begin to materialize. The Knicks pegged Trier as a player of interest, and their patience seems like it might be rewarded. And while Trier didn’t hear his name called on draft night, he will likely hear it an endless number of times at NBA arenas for years to come.

Trier seems to understand the bigger picture. It doesn’t necessarily matter how you start your career, what matters is what you do during it.

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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