The Knicks are loaded (for now) with young talent, so how do they stack up in terms of hierarchy?

If there’s one area the Knicks’ front office has solidified themselves, it’s being great at drafting. 

Over the last few years, New York has been able to acquire a small treasure trove of young guns that have slowly but surely made a name for themselves in the minds of Knicks fans. From Quentin Grimes to Immanuel Quickley, to the battle for most athletic between Obi Toppin and Jericho Sims, there are plenty of players to get excited about both in the starting lineup and off the bench. 

Here, we’ll be ranking their potential impact for the 2022-23 season, using the cutoff age of 24 or younger to qualify.

1. RJ Barrett

You didn’t think this was going to start out any other way, did you? 

Barrett, who is still only 22 years of age, has some of the most promise of anyone on the Knicks, period. But, amongst the class of younger players on the squad, he clears that bar by a longshot. This past season, he reached a key benchmark in averaging 20.0 points per game while becoming better at his long-range shooting as well as getting stronger finishing at the rim. 

Barrett’s ceiling has always been high for New York. He was their third overall pick in the 2019 Draft, selected after All-Stars Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. Barrett has yet to reach that milestone, but according to recent reports surrounding his extension to stay with the Knicks, there are incentives involved if he were to finally make either an All-Star team or an All-NBA team. If he keeps going in the direction that he is currently headed, he could feasibly make either of those teams by the end of his contract’s tenure. Hopefully, that happens sooner rather than later. 

Overall, Barrett’s success is paramount to the Knicks’ success in the coming years. He’s the centerpiece of their young rebuild and is viewed highly by both top New York brass and fans alike. The fact that his extension broke the Charlie Ward curse, and almost everyone was happy about it, speaks volumes. In order to truly contribute to a winning team this season, Barrett will need to continue to develop as a defender as well as a top option on offense. Last season, the Knicks often deferred to Julius Randle as their “engine” on offense as they had in 2020-21. But, after Randle’s struggles, it became clear that Barrett had to really work on becoming a reliable closer in order to further cement himself as a star face for the franchise. 

2. Mitchell Robinson

If you touch base with Bill Simmons, you may be under the impression that the Knicks have zero centers to offer protection for Brunson next season. But, I’m here to promise you that New York has a great starting big man and he didn’t get the nickname “Blockness Monster” for nothing. 

Mitchell Robinson averaged 8.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while also recording an average of 1.8 blocks per game. He was often the defensive anchor for the Knicks, intimidating opposing teams into settling for perimeter offense. Unfortunately for Robinson, the starters around him often left those shooters open, letting his good work go to waste. 

He’s fresh off a contract extension like Barrett, so he will be continuing the Lord’s work of blocking shots by Kevin Durant and showing us why his absence in the 2021 Playoffs against Clint Capela was sorely missed. After starting off with New York with injuries and inexperience, he’s since solidified himself as their starting center who can reliably play night in and night out, albeit not without fifty scary falls to the floor per game. For him to continue to thrive this coming season, Robinson just needs to keep doing what he does best – putting pressure on the rim and catching lobs – while also developing his footwork and dribbling. 

3. Immanuel Quickley

When things are all said and done this offseason, there is a good chance that Quickley will still be a member of the Knicks. Not that the 23-year-old’s name hasn’t come up in trade rumors surrounding Donovan Mitchell, but it has definitely come up far less than his fellow under-24 counterparts Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes. Still, Quickley’s development as a contributing point guard, most likely off the bench once again for New York, is important as he will look to be a part of a troublesome tandem between himself and Derrick Rose. 

Quickley, along with the rest of the bench unit last season, provided so much energy and spark off the bench. So much so, that often the bench outplayed the starters handily, throwing into question head coach Tom Thibodeau’s choice to leave his rotations very much untouched. Some of Quickley’s weak points include his hesitation to finish at the basket due to his size, and his propensity to let it fly from deep regardless of whether or not he has the hot hand. 

Nevertheless, I am ranking Quickley at two here because it’s been a while since the Knicks were able to develop a point guard through the draft. Yes, they signed Jalen Brunson to fill the gaping starting hole at the 1. And yes, they are actively in pursuit of another guard that would surely relegate Quickley to a bench role yet again. But, his minutes off the bench are still critical, and his ability to continue the playmaking work with Rose will only solidify New York as having one of the deeper teams in the Eastern Conference.

4. Obi Toppin

If you want to see hops from anyone on the Knicks’ current roster, Obi Toppin is the player you go to. The reigning Slam Dunk Contest champion has been brought up often as a piece coveted by the Jazz as a part of any potential trade for Mitchell, and it’s evident why from how Toppin has grown as a forward in his time with New York. 

He has gone from an awkward floor runner who mostly just sought to catch lobs or provide so-so screens for guards, to someone you can trust as a ball handler off the bench and as a finisher with finesse. He’s a decent defender as well, providing length to a backcourt that featured an undersized Quickley and a veteran in Rose. His potential may not be as high as Barrett’s or Robinson’s, but all teams can use a player like Toppin who speeds up your offense and has good enough court vision to make something of that speed. Next season, Toppin should look to develop a short jumper and should develop more as a perimeter defender to really contribute positively off the bench.

5. Quentin Grimes

Three-point shooting is a basic requirement for any NBA team now. Throw in defense, and you’ve got a coveted player in your rotation. Enter Grimes. The now sophomore player may not be a member of the Knicks if recent proposals from New York to Utah have any weight to them, but he still makes this list for simply having so much potential. 

Grimes was a solid three-point shooter prior to injuring his knee in a game against the Miami Heat last season and still came back with tenacity on defense. His ability to cut through screens should be taught as a master’s level class on how to keep your target in front of you at all times on the court. He stretched the floor well for the bench unit, and also showed moments of playmaking ability. 

All this to say, Grimes has also not been given too much of a fair shot at playing major minutes, only averaging 17.1 per game. But, in the moments where he was on the court, you could just tell he’d quickly become one of Thibodeau’s most favorite bench options. To continue that success, Grimes should just continue to develop his ability to finish at the rim and as a playmaker. Otherwise, I am not the authority to say he needs to change anything about his beautiful jumper. 

6. Cam Reddish

Reddish was acquired last season via trade with the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Kevin Knox II and a draft pick. Unfortunately for the Knicks and for fans, Reddish came onto the team with an injury and was never really able to show off any of his skills when he was healthy again. That was partly due to Thibodeau’s reluctance to change, well, anything, and partly because the Knicks already had good wing options in both Grimes and Toppin. 

Reddish has so much potential, though. Like Barrett, he entered the draft with a lot of buzz but was never given much time with the Hawks to showcase his ability to score at the rim or provide defense at the perimeter, which New York truly needed more of last year. He has obviously shown flashes and was just starting to look like he was coming into himself with the team before he injured himself again and was out for the rest of the regular season. But with his name floating around trade rumors now, as well, it remains to be seen how highly the Knicks’ front office values him given the logjam at the forward position. 

If he were to stay on with the team, he’d just need to be healthy in order to be a contributing factor to their bench success. 

7. Miles “Deuce” McBride

Picture this: the Knicks actually have too many options at the guard position going into next season. Sounds weird, right? Well, Deuce McBride slides right into that conundrum due to his ability to staunchly defend anyone on the court, as well as his shooting ability only really seen during his time with the Westchester Knicks. McBride is a bit of a mystery in the Knicks’ system. While he seems like the archetype player for Thibodeau due to his defensive prowess, he never really was able to crack even bench minutes last season. 

But, if he were to work on his playmaking ability alongside the rest of his bench counterparts, he might be able to contribute meaningful time on the court for the team. That all depends on whether Thibodeau even bothers to allow him to check in behind Brunson, Quickley, Rose, Grimes, and potentially Mitchell. 

8. Jericho Sims

Remember that whole, “the Knicks don’t have any centers,” thing from earlier? Well, Sims is yet another reminder that that is completely untrue. The baby-faced big man is an acrobat at the rim and has strength that can translate to great rim protection off the bench if needed. 

He will be entering this season, though, as the likely third stringer behind Isaiah Hartenstein, who signed with the Knicks this offseason. This isn’t a knock on his ability, but more so just a result of New York having such a deep bench. Sims could definitely end up being in a Taj Gibson role, where he gets minutes depending on the matchup or if someone is injured. 

For him to be able to really succeed even more next season, Sims should just continue to develop his defense, work on blocking more shots both at the perimeter and at the rim, and as a screener. 

Honorable mentions:

Isaiah Hartenstein, Feron Hunt, Trevor Keels

These three are weirdly the odd men out for this list. Obviously, Hartenstein has the greatest potential to contribute as a stretch five coming off the bench for Robinson. But, Hunt and Keels have yet to log any serious time in the NBA at all, so drawing any conclusions on what would make them successful feels premature. They’re still a part of the under-24 crowd. 

New York has gotten young, fast. This is only a list of players who are 24 and younger – there are so many more who are under 30 years old with the team now. The future is bright for these players, regardless of whether they are suiting up in the blue and orange next season or not.

Related Content:

»Read: Ranking the top five shooters in Knicks’ History

»Read: Julius Randle is at a crossroads. Again.

»Read: Grimes vs. Quickley: who has more value?