The Knicks have numerous young wing players to complement Jalen Brunson on the perimeter. They must stay ready when the stakes are high.
The NBA season is merely weeks away, which means that we are finally closing in on real-life Knicks basketball. Considering that the Knicks are still a young team that lost in the second round last season and had little-to-no roster turnover, Madison Square Garden looks to be the home of one of the best teams in the East. With Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle taking the bulk of the load over the course of last season, it was clear that the team, with an average rotation age of 25.4, needed more experience. Adding Donte DiVincenzo in free agency and everyone having another year of chemistry and development, this Knicks squad has the potential to really turn some heads as the season goes on. But that only happens if their wing players stay consistent throughout this NBA campaign.
In Game 6 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat, Jalen Brunson had an astonishing 41 points as he fought valiantly to stave off the end of the Knicks season. Although it was a relatively low-scoring game on both sides, there was a clear hole for the Knicks during the course of the game: wing play. The Knicks wing shot 7-for-26 overall from the field and turned the ball over six times, despite receiving multiple great looks off the feed from Jalen Brunson, who was getting hounded all night long. Brunson did everything he could to will the team to victory, but with minimal game execution from the Knicks’ wings, the Heat were able to scrape by.
Which brings us to this upcoming season. The addition of Done DiVincenzo gives the Knicks a shooter they desperately needed. The former Villanova Wildcat brings strong shooting and defense to a squad that could barely buy an outside shot outside of Brunson in the playoffs. At the end of the day, the Knicks wings need to stay true to themselves and play to their strengths. With the starting shooting guard position looking to be a dogfight in training camp, DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Immanuel Quickley, and Quentin Grimes will have to duke it out. Whichever players are left to come off the bench will become an X-Factor this year. Quickley could be in for another year coming off the bench, but no matter what, Tom Thibodeau will do what’s in the team’s best interest in terms of complimenting the rest of the lineup. Most importantly, staying consistent will be the name of the game.
Bringing Donte into the mix is interesting because we don’t necessarily know where he fits in yet. With pre-established chemistry with Brunson dating back to their 2018 NCAA championship run, having Donte in the starting lineup makes a whole lot of sense. After all, Brunson and DiVincenzo were roommates in college, so it almost seems like a no-brainer. With Brunson shooting threes at a 41% clip and DiVincenzo coming off a season where he nearly shot 40% himself, this pairing seems like a match made in heaven. He is the Knicks’ prized acquisition this year, and he’s got to live up to that. Averaging 9.4 points per game last season, he found himself deferring to the Warriors trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole, which resulted in him seeing minimal looks and shots. For the Knicks, fans should want to see him get aggressive and initiate the offense himself. Being a dynamic scorer who hasn’t really been given too much of a shot to date, Divincenzo has the ability to thrive whether he’s placed at point guard or even small forward. Whatever the Knicks have in store for him, fans should be excited for his output this season.
Donte DiVincenzo putting up shots at the Knicks practice facility pic.twitter.com/ECEBKF4FMa
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) September 20, 2023
When looking at Josh Hart, it’s important that he continues to be a “jack-of-all-trades” for this Knicks squad. His rebounding and defensive intangibles easily serve as the most important aspects of his game to date, and will certainly keep him in the game late. While those aspects are important, Hart must also be more confident in taking outside shots. When he first arrived in New York, he was clearly hesitant at times and would pass up great looks. Dating back to the end of last season, Hart definitely made strides in terms of not hesitating, but I would like to see it translate over the course of the NBA offseason. It looks like Hart will come off the bench again this season, but with training camp beginning October 3rd, there are no certainties for the Knicks just yet. While this may be the case, Hart is best suited in a bench role where he should be viewed as a super sub, getting plugged in wherever the team needs him.
Immanuel Quickley in Miami admiring Josh Hart’s float game: pic.twitter.com/TLRulfEMvz
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) September 19, 2023
For Grimes, he needs to use his first step to blow by the defense to create a look for himself or for someone on the outside. When it was displayed last season, Grimes could beat anyone off of that initial step, and it really opened the floor up for the rest of the team. His dribbling and playmaking ability are undervalued aspects of his game that don’t necessarily see the light of day with so many players commanding the ball. But with Randle and Brunson likely to command significant attention this season, it puts Grimes in a prime situation. One of the best snipers on last season’s squad, the former Houston Cougar worked out with several former players, which included JJ Redick and Memphis Tigers coach Penny Hardaway. Working out with two great players in their own respects, it seems that Grimes honed in on his shooting (where he struggled in the playoffs) and his playmaking abilities. For Grimes to be consistent, he must pay for opponents leaving him wide open, play consistent defense, and tap into some playmaking, getting himself and other good looks, whether that’s on the bench or in the starting lineup. With lots of buzz around Grimes in recent weeks, he could be one of the bigger breakout candidates in the Eastern Conference this season.
Quentin Grimes: Way more than just a shooter. pic.twitter.com/Lzv1jaeZ6B
— KnicksMuse (@KnicksMuse) September 21, 2023
The player who most likely will not see the starting lineup unless there is an injury, Quickley is best suited as the sixth man with Brunson running the first unit. Like Hart, IQ is yet another super-sub for a deep Knicks bench that will torch other second units this upcoming season. Taking a look back at last year, Quickley had a phenomenal second half of the season, coming into his own and eventually finishing second in Sixth Man of the Year voting. Whether he wins the award this year or not, the most important thing is that he has to be consistent with his shot-making. Starting off the season relatively cold and finishing the season in that regard as well really hurt the Knicks as they needed someone to step up as the playoffs progressed. Granted, Quickley was dealing with an injury in the Miami series, but it doesn’t take away from the fact he struggled in the first round too when he was completely healthy. Either way, IQ is primed for another efficient season as he has another NBA offseason in the rearview mirror.
“Immanuel Quickley showed last season he's arguably the best 6th man in the league.
Instant offense ✅ Efficient ✅ Analytically top 5 in the league on the defensive end… …
Work ethic is 💯”
— NBA trainer & former Knicks player development coordinator Chris Brickley pic.twitter.com/bgV1VjsdgU
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) September 18, 2023
Heading into the season, the Knicks stand to be in a great position going forward. As long as the Knicks wing talent can do what’s asked of them on a night-to-night basis, who knows the heights this team can reach this year, and in the future? New York Knicks basketball simply cannot come soon enough.