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  • Monday Musings: A Look Into the Knicks’ Future: Part II — The Forwards

Monday Musings: A Look Into the Knicks’ Future: Part II — The Forwards

Photo: Bailey Carlin/TKW Illustration
Last week, Bryan Gibberman evaluated the guards on the team moving forward. Next, he talks about the wings/forwards on the team, and what impact they can make next year.

We started the looking into the future of the Knicks with an exercise with the guards, and now we’ll move onto wings and forwards.

I think it’s a pretty safe assumption there will be another player added to this group as New York’s first-round pick. Someone that’s more of a three-four hybrid rather than a two-three hybrid would be optimal. If I were to bet on it at this moment I’d think either Mikal or Miles Bridges ends up being the guy—but that’s for another day.

There will be crossover. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s roll as the starting small forward has already been discussed in the guard section. Eventually, as the Knicks get bigger, longer, and more athletic, Hardaway Jr. won’t have to play out of position as much, but it’s fine for now.

There really shouldn’t be much difference in Daymean Dotson’s role as a two or three either. Frank Ntilikina is available as an option here too. We spent much of last week speaking on the duo’s much-needed defensive versatility going forward.

I’ll bring up Courtney Lee here because I didn’t mention him in the last column. Lee’s a perfectly fine player and has met the expectations from when he was signed as a free agent. That being said, with where the Knicks are as a team, they shouldn’t be carving out minutes for the 32-year-old in 2018–19. There is no upside in giving run to Lee and when the team is ready to compete at a higher level he’s most likely not going to be on the roster. If the front office wants to keep Lee around as a veteran presence using him for 15–18 minutes per game off the bench isn’t the end of the world, but they should look into trading him for a couple of second-round picks and a contract that can help clear up money on the future cap sheet (Lee’s deal runs through the 2019–20 season).

Lance Thomas’ minutes also need to be redistributed elsewhere. He’s no longer the defender he once was, and his offense is a negative. Another mistake Jeff Hornacek made this past season was valuing Thomas over Doug McDermott when New York desperately needed to shoot more threes and space the floor.

The other players the Knicks can continue to evaluate next season at the wing/forward positions are Troy Williams and Isaiah Hicks.

I’d put Williams floor as a Corey Brewer type that’s a three-four hybrid with better finishing ability. Williams creates havoc both good and bad when he’s on the court. The Knicks played at 101.2 pace during Williams’ 290 minutes, the fastest of any player on the team and up from the 99.3 mark as a whole. He had a 57.2 true shooting percentage despite making only 11-of-33 threes during his 17-game Knickerbocker stint. That’s because over 50 percent of his shots come from 0-3 feet, per Basketball-Reference, and he made 67 percent of them.

Hornacek played Williams 91 percent of that time at small forward and only seven percent at power forward. The next coach should definitely look into giving him more time at the four where his lack of three-point shooting can be easier to deal with considering power-forward matchups. Whether those type of groups will defensive rebound well enough to sustain is something to watch, but the Knicks aren’t there yet anyway.

There are two offensive skills that are going to determine just how good Williams can be in the NBA—his three-point shooting and ability to cut out the sloppiness that leads to turnovers. Williams’ out-of-control play pushes him towards bad decisions and a turnover percentage of 13.9. Per 36 minutes, Williams averaged 2.2 turnovers to only 1.9 assists, an unacceptable ratio for someone that plays the role he does (being signed by the Knicks through next year).

Williams finding the right balance in his decision making so he can utilize his immense athletic tools will be key to future development.

My guess is Hicks’ offensive game doesn’t end up getting to the level it needs for him to be an NBA rotation player. He’s trying to expand his range to NBA three, but it hasn’t been successful so far. To my eye, Hicks lacks short area explosiveness that’s needed to be a good finisher in tight spaces. He does have some bounce with a running start, though.

Where Hicks has been surprisingly impressive is on the defensive end and that’s the reason investing some more time on him makes sense. Isaiah showed off a lateral quickness moving his feet that made him a viable option with switches. His individual defense against his own position was also solid. The less than one steal and block per 36 minutes is an area Hicks also needs to show growth in.

It might also make sense to give him a look as a small-ball center if he can develop the ability to anchor the defense while protecting the rim. That outcome falls into a category of low probability, but it’s worth exploring in training camp and preseason games.

The rest of the options at center will be looked at next week, where the Knicks have two players who can be free agents and one unicorn coming off an ACL injury.

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