The 2018-19 season has been a struggle for the New York Knicks. They are currently 14-57, which is the worst record in the league so far. Head coach David Fizdale has had to deal with a lot of changes since taking over the Knicks this season with Kristaps Porzingis not playing this season and trading him away to the Dallas Mavericks.
The team’s leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. was also shipped to the Mavericks, leaving the Knicks with a young roster. They won their last home game against the Lakers, which is where the Knicks will take on the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. Fizdale will be without his young point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who will miss the game due to injury.
His absence from the lineup leaves the Knicks with a hole at the point guard position, which is a probem against Utah’s solid backcourt. Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio are two of the NBA’s more underrated backcourt duos as they work off each other nicely. Kadeem Allen and Emmanuel Mudiay have worked well together in New York and will need to play their best against the Jazz.
The most intriguing matchup of the game lies in the paint between the reigning Defensive Player of The Year Rudy Gobert and the NBA’s next defensive superstar in Mitchell Robinson. The 2019 second round pick is third in the NBA in blocks per game at 2.42, behind only Myles Turner and Anthony Davis. Gobert is fourth in the league in blocked shots, but his ability to stay in front of the ball makes him an elite defender.
Robinson’s athleticism and length makes him one of the league’s top shot blockers, but he is very raw on the offensive side of the ball. If he has a solid showing against Gobert, Robinson can prove that he was one of the biggest steals of the 2019 draft. Ninth overall pick Kevin Knox has had an inconsistent rookie season, but he scored 19 points against the Lakers on 8-14 shooting, including 3-5 from behind the arc.
He falls in love with his perimeter shot sometimes, but Knox is at his best when he is attacking the basket. His matchup against Joe Ingles is intriguing as the Australian small forward is a quality NBA player. He is an incredible passer and can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting. Knox needs to be able to slow down Ingles on the perimeter or else the Knicks will have a long night in Madison Square Garden.
Derrick Favors will be a tough matchup for the Knicks on the interior as the Georgia Tech big man can score the ball on the block, but can also step outside and hit the jumper. Noah Vonleh has established himself as the starting power forward for the Knicks this season and has been a pleasant surprise for them this season. He has to limit Favors’ opportunities on the glass, or else the Knicks will be out of the game before the start of the second half.
Mario Hezonja had the big block on Lebron James at the end of the Lakers game and seems to have found a home in New York. If he can continue making plays on the defensive end for the Knicks, they will have a chance to upset the Jazz in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have nothing to play for in 2019, but they will give the Jazz a huge test in Madison Square Garden.