How Shake Milton fits with Knicks down the stretch in 2024 NBA season

Even after a massive surprise midseason trade and coming away with the biggest haul of the trade deadline, the Knicks aren’t done building on their roster, as they have now officially signed Shake Milton following the guard clearing waivers.

The 6-foot-5 27-year-old guard was recently traded to the Detroit Pistons from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is now joining a New York rotation in desperate need of depth.

Prior to joining Minnesota in the offseason, Milton played five seasons in Philadelphia, averaging 9.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 50.2 percent shooting from two and 36.5 percent from deep.

However he’s struggled this year, playing a career-low 13.2 minutes a night, shooting 46.8 percent from two and 27.4 percent from three.

What can Knicks fans expect from their new backup guard

Offensively, Milton is primarily an on-ball shot creator who likes to leverage his quick dribbling and speed bursts to create looks for himself. He’s consistently hit 67 percent of his shots at the rim, a capable finisher once he gets there.

His shooting is much streakier, as he’s a low volume three-point shooter but likes to get into his pull-up from the mid-range, to varying success.

One positive takeaway is his catch-and-shoot three ball has been largely dependable, though underutilized. He’s only hit 28.3 percent of them this year, but knocked down 40 percent last season, 34 percent in 2022, 38.8 percent in 2021 and 43.9 percent in 2020.

Milton hovers between shooting in the high-40’s and low-50’s from two-point range, and doesn’t get many free throws. For that reason he’s never looked good from an efficiency standpoint, but when he’s rolling he can be a dangerous bucket-getter.

Unfortunately getting him rolling is a challenge, as he’s performed best given sustained large minutes, not as a ready-to-go bench microwave. He’s also much more comfortable on the ball than off it, and can get tunnel visioned.

Still, he has viable secondary playmaking. His assist-to-turnover ratio has stayed above two and he can open lots of passing lanes with his driving.

Defensively, Milton’s got a lot of potential, boasting a seven-foot wingspan and playing with a high motor on that end. The drawbacks are his foot speed, a susceptibility to blow-by's against quicker guards, and low steals/blocks averages over his career.

This is arguably the worst year of his career, so the Knicks are in part hoping they could get a vintage performance out of Milton. He was once thought to be a major bench piece in the making, even putting up some strong postseason performances.

In the bubble, Milton started in Philadelphia’s shorthanded sweep to Boston, putting up 14.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 57.9% shooting from two and 40 percent from three. He then shot the ball well in two consecutive postseasons in a reserve role.

In the short-term, Milton should get the ball in his hands a good amount, with the Knicks ravaged by injuries and lacking in shot creators. They’ve had to rely on Miles McBride and Alec Burks to be lead playmakers off the bench, a role better suited for their new acquisition.

How much of those guys’ playing time gets taken by Milton is a fair question. There’s some politics involved with both, as McBride recently signed a long-term extension and Quentin Grimes was dealt in part for Burks.

Milton should enhance, not detract from McBride’s minutes, giving him a more trusted ball-handler than Burks, who’s having trouble contributing with his shot awry. But once all the starters return, there will be few minutes to go around these guys, turning them into insurance pieces.

At the end of the day, head coach Tom Thibodeau will go with whoever leads to winning basketball, including once the rotation is fully healthy. It’s entirely possible this ends up another Cam Reddish situation, with Milton simply watching from the sidelines barring extraordinary events.

Still, the added depth is extremely helpful for the Playoffs and to stay afloat during these trying times. If the medical staff has reason to be pessimistic about New York’s starters' return dates, this signing makes all the more sense.

It’s been over a month since we saw this Knicks team at its peak, but it was a dominant enough stretch to convince this front office there’s a run to make come the Playoffs. This latest signing is the latest evidence, and could prove beneficial in making it happen.