Training camp is less than a week away, and while there are some locks the roster is by no means set. How will New York proceed?
As we come to the end of the NBA offseason with training camps opening up on September 27th, the Knicks have yet again tweaked their lineup and by opening night we may see even more changes. While they weren’t able to land the biggest fish, Coach Tom Thibodeau has once again been tasked with integrating the team’s new players with their incumbents and assigning proper roles. The most significant change is obviously at point guard. After years of searching the Knicks have locked in their presumed floor general for the foreseeable future. In arguably the most important position in basketball, the Knicks have ended the parade of journeymen that have held the keys to the offense.
Jalen Brunson, an offensive dynamo, has taken the reins. The days of plug and play at point guard are dead and gone in New York. Brunson brings some much-needed stability to the starting lineup and lightens the burden on the other Knicks playing alongside him. Opponents will have to prepare for a Knicks starting point guard for the first time since Raymond Felton, who has not been on the team in about a decade. The stability Brunson brings can’t be understated.
What once was a weak spot, the point guard rotation, is now a clear strong suit for the Knicks. Backing up Brunson is Immanuel Quickley. IQ is heading into his third year and looks to cement himself as the sixth man. While his ceiling may be higher, for now he’s in the perfect role to continue to thrive. It is well documented that he models himself after his favorite player growing up, Lou Williams, one of the greatest sixth men in NBA history. Quickley’s ability as a combo guard will greatly benefit New York since he can bring instant offense off the bench with the ability to create for his teammates.
While the younger point guards will shoulder the bulk of the work the Knicks will also employ a veteran presence – coming back after being sidelined since February with two ankle surgeries is Derrick Rose. The former MVP has been a stabilizing force for Thibs in the second unit; hopefully, with a lighter workload, he can remain healthy for the long run.
Though the Knicks have the captain of the French national team at shooting guard the position could be a point of contention. While Fournier is coming off an impressive summer leading France to the Eurobasket championship game where his team eventually fell to the Spanish national team, there is another Knicks shooting guard who had a hell of a summer: Quentin Grimes. Now entering his sophomore season, the three-and-D guard turned heads earlier in the summer with his impressive summer league play. It was even reported that Knicks’ brass refused to include Grimes in potential deals for Donovan Mitchell. The front office clearly believes in Grimes’ ability to become a top-tier two-way talent going forward. With the Knicks seemingly committed to Grimes, it is assumed that he is a legitimate threat to Fournier for the starting shooting guard spot entering training camp.
It is sure to be a battle as both players have kept busy in the summer months and will probably be in the most game-ready shape. After his payday last summer Evan Fournier looks to rebound from what was a disappointing first season in New York despite breaking the Knicks record for made three-pointers in a season. With a point guard like Jalen Brunson who’s able to break down a defense, Fournier should find it easier to maneuver on offense.
Moving over to small forward, there isn’t much to discuss. After signing his rookie extension, RJ Barrett is firmly cemented in New York. Barrett will look to take yet another leap as he continues his growth entering his fourth season in the NBA. With an incentive-ladened new contract, Barrett has much to play for to maximize his earnings potential. Barrett is the clear-cut starter, the only question is who takes the minutes behind him. One player looking to jump-start his career in New York is RJ’s college teammate, Cam Reddish. Reddish was traded to the Knicks from the Hawks while injured last January and only played a few games before getting hurt again and missing what was left of the season with a shoulder injury. He has the opportunity to earn playing time as rotations begin to develop but won’t this won’t be a “gimme” for Reddish – there will be competition from players who are just as hungry for opportunities.
Firstly, another Summer League standout, Feron Hunt. The Southern Methodist product is no slouch, after going undrafted in the 2021 draft he spent the majority of the season in the G-League with the Westchester Knicks and before that the Mavericks’ affiliate Texas Legends where he averaged 18.1 points to go with 7.6 rebounds on 54.9 percent shooting. With the Knicks arguably the thinnest at the wing position, Hunt has a real chance to crack the rotation.
Julius Randle will obviously continue his duties as the starting power forward. The former Most Improved Player award recipient is looking to bounce back and regain his All-Star form. While the fit with Jalen Brunson looks clunky on paper since they generally occupy the same areas of the court, Randle will have much-needed relief on the side of play-making and creating for teammates. With the ball in Brunson’s capable hands, Randle will have the chance to operate more freely on offense.
Behind Randle is Obi Toppin. Going into his third year Toppin will surely have a bigger role to play. Last season his minutes were sporadic for a chunk of the season, but with the departure of Taj Gibson, one of Thibs’ most trusted vets, Toppin could be in for a windfall of court time. Toppin ended the last season with a flurry of impressive outings in Randle’s absence and will be looking to pick up where he left off.
At a glance, the center spot seems like it’s Mitchell Robinson’s to lose, he stayed healthy and he just signed a long-term contract. But not so fast: the Knicks also signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year deal. Robinson may have to earn his starting job – as a traditional center, Robinson derives most of his value from his vertical spacing above the basket. Hartenstein, on the other hand, is a more modern big man, who can pick and pop and can step back and shoot from distance, and in some ways is more suited for today’s game. Things may not come easy for the “Blockness Monster” with I-Hart right on his tail.
The Knicks have other young players who might be on the outside looking for minutes. With Thibs’ short rotation and a limited number of minutes in a game, the players may have to work a little harder for some burn. Jericho Sims is developing into a serviceable center but with no superior skill, it is likely he is last on the depth chart. The Knick also have two other young guards in Deuce McBride and Trevor Keels, but given the stacked guard rotation they are likely to see many nights in Westchester. New York also recently signed guards/forwards Svi Mykhailiuk, Quinton Rose, and Daquan Jefferies to two-way deals to round the roster for training camp.