October 1, 2019 | 12:11am
Dennis Smith Jr. spent the offseason reworking his jump shot.
How often it lands may go a long way in determining how much of a jump the Knicks make themselves.
“The best version of Dennis Smith Jr., you put him out on that Knicks team, that’s a pretty good team,” Smith said Monday at the team’s media day.
Smith will begin training camp Tuesday in a point-guard battle with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks are looking for one of them to step up and grab hold of a position that has been unsettled at best in recent years, and the 21-year-old Smith might have the most potential of any of them.
There have never been any questions about Smith’s athleticism, but if the former Slam Dunk Contest runner-up can add a more consistent jump shot, he could turn into the player the Knicks hoped they were getting when they acquired him as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
“What other people think, it is what it is,” Smith said. “I’m really just focused on winning games. I know I gotta be the best version of myself to do that. That’s what I’ve been working towards this summer.”
Knicks assistant coach Keith Smart spent plenty of time with Smith in the offseason focusing on his shot. Smith has made 40.7 percent of his field goals during his first two years in the league and only 31.6 percent of 3-pointers, but believes his mechanical tweaks will make a difference.
“Coach and them believe in me to make shots,” Smith said, “so I gotta take them with confidence and hope that the work paid off.”
Smith’s jump-shot makeover could help him in the point-guard battle, but coach David Fizdale is looking for more than just scoring.
“I think it’s going to be great competition,” Fizdale said. “I think we’ll have between [Elfrid], Dennis and Frank, those guys will be fighting each other every single day for those minutes. Really at that position, I’m looking at are they defending their position at a high level, are they pushing our pace, are they organizing us while staying aggressive and really being the floor general for our team.”
Ntilikina, 21, is coming off a strong World Cup performance, while Payton brings a veteran and consistent option to the group.
“Just wanted to be a part of something, the start of something,” Payton said. “The only thing I really care about is winning.”