Allonzo Trier was an unexpected contributor to the New York Knicks as an undrafted rookie. So after being waived, why are no flyers being taken?
Allonzo Trier was a gem uncovered by the New York Knicks soon after the 2019 Draft. The undrafted guard turned a Summer League invite into a two-way contract. By December of 2018, Trier had inked a two-year deal and would finish out the season as a rotation regular earning more than 20 minutes a night.
Just over a year after that standout rookie season, Trier is no longer with the Knicks after seeing his minutes nearly slashed in half, waived last June to make room for Theo Pinson.
Why New York cut bait with a player who showed so much promise speaks to organizational incompetence and mismanagement that needs no further words. The real question lies in figuring out how no other team has capitalized on the chance to bring in someone who went undrafted yet managed to stand out among a loaded rookie class.
Back during the 2018-19 season, Trier was eighth in scoring among rookies at 10.9 despite ranking just 16th in minutes with 22.8 a night. Among rookies with at least 2.0 3-point attempts per game, Trier ranked fifth in 3-point percentage at 39.4. Only Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Marvin Bagley III earned more trips to the free-throw line that Trier did at 3.5 a night.
After three years at Arizona, the then 23-year-old was a polished offensive presence the moment he stepped onto an NBA court. His Iso-Zo moniker was well earned, ranking in the 80th percentile among isolation scorers as a rookie.
Trier sized up defenses with herky-jerky stops and starts that included plenty of subtle body fakes and hesitations that put his matchup on the tips of their toes trying to anticipate what’s coming. They rarely could, seeing as how Trier was too quick and dynamic with the ball to be kept from the rim.
In the play above, Justin Holiday does a pretty good job staying attached to Trier’s hip after he explodes towards the rim. At 6’4” and roughly 200 pounds, Trier’s frame allows him to push that right shoulder through the180-pound Holiday that creates just enough space for a right-handed finish.
His conversion rate within the restricted area was subpar, but he managed to manifest some impressive finishes by attacking the body of defenders or contorting around them.
That unwavering confidence got the Knicks a bucket in this instance, but plenty of times it proved to be Trier’s undoing. His shot was blocked 62 times in 64 games.
There’s a certain erraticism to his style that needs to be further controlled, knowing when a shot you want to take just isn’t available. But how can you not at least respect an NBA nobody charging right at one of the league’s most feared rim protectors without hesitation?
His at times poor shot selection near the rim is balanced with advanced knowledge of how to get to his spots on the court. The same speed bursts and change of direction Trier used to get to the bucket function as ways to create space for his jumper.
Though at his best with the ball in his hands, Trier shot 43.9 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers during the 2018-19 season.
As impressive as all the percentages and percentiles are, they do come with some caveats. Trier registered 78 isolation possessions as a rookie, 67th most in the NBA. He launched just 67 C&S triples, just behind Marquise Chriss and Rajon Rondo.
How volume impacts efficiency is a legitimate question that doesn’t always churn out positive results. That would be a point of concern when evaluating top picks like Luka or Young who are supposed to alter the prospects of a franchise right out the gate. Less so for a player whose mere presence on the court speaks to expectations vastly exceeded.
Teams are constantly on the lookout for low-risk signings that have the potential to churn out high rewards. That desire is sure to increase in the short term under fluctuating cap numbers.
Trier’s defensive ceiling is up for debate. He’s not exactly an initiator for others, having made fewer passes per game in his rookie season than JaVale McGee and Alex Len. He also showed off-the-dribble creativity beyond his years no matter the defender.
Put that entire package together and it bears striking resemblance to the methods Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams used to earn a combined six Sixth Man of the Year trophies.
Trier has much work to put in before he reaches the status of two second-unit legends, but his first year indicated he was on the right track before the New York Knicks closed it off. It would behoove any number of teams to seize the chance to see what New York couldn’t.