Jerry West’s Clippers traded free-agent-to-be Tobias Harris in a hope that LA can swing for the fences in free agency—much like the Knicks.

On March 3rd, the Knicks play the Los Angeles Clippers, another team hoping to score a big free agent this summer. The Clippers (35-29) have surprised the league by fighting for a playoff spot all season. Even now, after trading All-Star Tobias Harris, the Clippers are 3-5.

With the New York Knicks (13-49) suffering a demoralizing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers due to a 20-point turnaround and fourth-quarter collapse, the Clippers may be in position to secure a confidence-building win against the Knickerbockers. The Knicks and Clippers split their two-game season series last year.


 

Backcourt Battle

The Knicks should have an interesting young point guard battle between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Smith Jr., but with defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley in the backcourt, Smith may be locked up, putting Damyean Dotson in the spotlight.

Dotson and Smith’s synergistic relationship has been one of the most encouraging developments since the trade in February. Beverley may be able to cut off Smith on his way to the hoop, but a clever cut by Dotson, an already cunning player, could allow him to find his spots on the perimeter and under the basket.

However, if the Clippers choose to alter their lineup and start Lou Williams, a scorching hot scorer, Dotson may have his hands full on the other end. Williams is averaging 19.8 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season. Smith probably has the fastest 40-yard dash time on the Knicks’ roster, but he’s nowhere near as composed as Dotson on defense. The Knicks’ backcourt will have its work cut out for itself if Doc Rivers chooses to be crafty.

Montrezl Harrell vs. Noah Vonleh, Mitchell Robinson

It’s likely that Noah Vonleh will start at center and Lance Thomas will fill the role as a starting forward once again. Vonleh and Montrezl Harrell have very similar body types and strengths, although Vonleh is more prone to shoot the three.

The biggest difference between the two is Harrell’s leap into relevancy this season. With the ability to slash to the basket, throw down through defenders, and do so while still being unselfish on offense, Harrell has turned into The Manimal 2.0. Vonleh, a strong and tenacious big man in his own right, will have to match his Harrell’s energy and physicality.

Luckily, rookie center Mitchell Robinson will be available to shoulder some of the load. Robinson is also an athletic marvel and a behemoth in open space. He’s not nearly as strong as Harrell, but if he’s able to stay in front of the big man on his drives, Robinson’s natural gifts may lessen his load on defense. Since conditioning is a problem for the rookie phenom, his stretches matched up against Harrell may leave him ineffective on the other side of the court. Between Landry Shamet, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Williams averaging 31.7 field-goal attempts per game, I’d still put the Mitchell Robinson Block Counter projection at three.

 

Injury Report

  • Out for New York: Frank Ntilikina, Mario Hezonja
  • Questionable for New York: DeAndre Jordan
  • Out for Los Angeles: Wilson Chandler