Knicks' GM Perry Makes Latest Shrewd Move By Signing Allonzo Trier
by Adam Zagoria
On the night of this year's NBA Draft, every team in the NBA skipped over Arizona's Allonzo Trier, but Knicks GM Scott Perry called him that night with a message.
"We want you to come to New York," Perry told the 6-foot-5 Trier, who had long been known in basketball circles as a scoring phenom.
The Knicks chose Kentucky's Kevin Knox with the No. 9 pick in the Draft, and then went big and surprised virtually everyone by taking Mitchell Robinson, who had never played a single college game, at No. 36.
Trier had thought the Knicks might take him at 36, but after they didn't, Perry called him and offered him a Two-Way Contract, which would mean splitting time between the Knicks big club and their G League franchise.
“Even though I may have been their best available player and favorite player on the board they chose to go with something that would benefit them now or fill a need right now,” Trier told The Athletic last month. “That ended up working for them too. They ended up getting me as well. Big win.”
On Thursday, Trier took the next step in his journey when the Knicks announced they had signed Trier to a two-year deal that replaces his Two-Way Contract. A league source said the deal is worth $7 million with a player option for next season. The player option gives the Knicks financial flexibility next summer, when they plan to pursue Kevin Durant and other elite free agents (For more on that, read my colleague Tommy Beer's piece on Forbes SportsMoney here.)
The Trier deal is the latest shrewd move by Perry, who came aboard as the Knicks GM in 2017 as the franchise moved to repeal and replace the failed Phil Jackson Era.
"He is doing well," one NBA executive said of Perry, 55. "Big summer ahead."
If you look back across the last two NBA Drafts, few NBA executives can rival what Perry has accomplished.
In 2017 while serving as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Sacramento Kings, Perry supervised a draft that led to acquiring Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox, North Carolina's Justin Jackson, Duke's Harry Giles and Kansas' Frank Mason.
Arguably the biggest gamble of the evening’s festivities was the Kings trading the No. 10 pick to Portland for the Nos. 15 and 20 picks. After selecting Fox at No. 5 and then Jackson at 15, they rolled the dice and selected the 6-foot-10 Giles at 20.
“Now it could work out, Harry Giles is a top-5 talent and a couple of years ago was projected as the No. 1 overall pick,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas said on air. “So if he’s healthy, maybe it winds up being a great thing for Sacramento."
Giles is only averaging 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds for the resurgent Kings (15-12), but Fox, Jackson and Mason are all playing key roles, with Fox averaging 17.9 points and 7.6 assists.
Flash forward to this year's draft with the Knicks, where Perry and President Steve Mills added Knox, Robinson and, effectively, Trier, who is leading all Knicks rookies at 11.3 points per game but is now sidelined with a hamstring injury.
"I think they did a phenomenal job on the last draft," one NBA scout said of the Knicks. "They definitely have an eye for basketball talent.
"If you look at the work that Scott Perry did in Sacramento, if you put those two drafts together, he's probably next to Danny Ainge [of the Celtics]."
The scout added that if you had one NBA team comprised of Fox, Jackson, Mason, Giles, Knox, Robinson and Trier, it would be fairly loaded with young talent.
"That's a team if you put those two [drafts] together," the scout said.
And don't forget about Noah Vonleh, the No. 9 pick in 2014 whom Perry and the Knicks signed as a free agent last summer. The 6-foot-9 Vonleh is averaging 8.2 points and 8.0 rebounds on the season.
"It’s the versatility, man. I didn’t realize how versatile he was,” Knicks coach David Fizdale recently told the New York Post. “Scott Perry just kept saying it to me. ‘Coach, when this kid was in high school, man, this kid could do everything.’ He said, ‘I’m not telling you to have him do everything, but see if you can pull some of that stuff out of him.’
“The first day Noah got here, I was playing pickup with our guys and the first thing I told him was: ‘If you rebound the ball, you’ve got to push it. I don’t want you outletting the ball.’ And his eyes lit up and I think from there he saw that I was going to have a lot of confidence in him to try some stuff. Now he’s shooting the 3, he’s posting. He does everything. I think I’ve said it before, he’s our most complete player.”
The post-Phil Jackson Knicks have made some missteps, for sure. Mills gave Ron Baker a player option, and the team ended up cutting him to make room for Trier. And let's not forget the four-year, $71-million deal Mills gave Tim Hardaway Jr. in 2017. Mills gave Hardaway Jr. and Baker a combined $80 million.
At the time, that Hardaway deal raised a lot of eyebrows and now that the Knicks will need cap space to pursue Durant and others next summer, it is even more questionable.
If you could inject Perry with truth serum, it would be fascinating to hear what he honestly thought of those deals.
But for now, there's no question that Perry himself has engineered two terrific drafts for two franchises, and has made several shrewd signings with the Knicks.
He's now out on the recruiting trail watching guys like Duke stars Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett as the Knicks gear up for another huge summer ahead. Many fans think they should be actively "Not tryin' for Zion" or "Giving it all away for R.J."
Knicks fans need to hope Perry keeps the magic tough for a third straight NBA Draft.