All Star Break Review: The Knicks


Benjamin Amstislavskiy

The New York Knicks have been pretty underwhelming so far. Sitting at 23-26 and just out of the play-in picture so far, the Knicks have been playing inconsistently and like the true definition of .500 basketball. They’ll beat a top seeded team in style and then get blown out by the teams fighting for the #1 pick. So what’s been good, what’s been bad? Let’s talk about the players first.


The Players

Kemba Walker
I don’t really know how to feel about the Kemba Walker experiment. When he’s healthy, he plays good offense, can drop 25-30 without warning, and can take over entire quarters of games. However, his defense, even when healthy, is atrocious. Add this to the fact that he’s pretty much always hurt, and I don’t know if Kemba Walker should return to the starting lineup when he’s 100% and ready to go.


Evan Fournier

Off the court, he’s a fan favorite, a smart, witty guy who wins over Knicks’ fans time and time again on social media. On the court, he’s more of a mixed bag. He’s had perhaps the best single-game performance from any Knick this season. However, he can go cold sometimes, leading to questions about how role in the starting lineup will shake out after the trade deadline or the Cam Reddish trade.


R.J Barrett
The Duke of York is, in my mind, the best Knick on the team right now. He’s had struggles with his effort on defense towards the beginning of the season, but he’s been playing spectacularly as of late. He was a strong contender for Eastern Conference player of the week earlier this month. Since january 8th, he hasn’t dipped below his average points per game once, and has 3 games where he’s scored at least more than 10 points above his average. The offense, in my opinion, should run through him. His finesse around the rim, mixed with a decently reliable shot when open and a huge amount of athleticism and finishing confidence makes him the best option for the offense to run through


Julius Randle
Julius Randle is a little bit of a mixed bag. When he’s on, he’s the deadliest player on the Knicks by a little bit. He has a deadly turnaround fade, a decent isoball midrange game, and a three that’ll fall in every so often, though not as often as last year. The issue is, though, that he is determined to shoot himself through slumps. Adding a pretty bad shot IQ to that, and you get a player who isn’t good enough to play hero ball stopping almost every possession dead in its tracks the second he gets the ball. When he’s on, he plays out of his mind, but when he’s not, and that’s more likely, he can be maddeningly frustrating to watch play. With all this and his sometimes lackadaisical defense, there’s no better player (for better or worse) to be the face of the .500 Knicks.


Mitchell Robinson
A ridiculously athletic and efficient player, his commanding inside presence helps slashers create assists and points off the drive and his mix of length and agility make him a defensive terror on the other side of the court. He’s pretty much a consistent player, but he tends to complain on social media about his relatively low usage rate for his talent. This, while not having much effect on his play on the court, could impact his availability for trades.


Alec Burks
He’s a well needed veteran presence who has stepped up admirably to play the 1 for a team unit that has been sorely missing Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker. He has good court vision, shot iq, and an ability to take over games unlike most bench players. There’s no doubt that he has his cold moments, and can put up some pretty disappointing games offense-wise, but Burks isn’t one of those players that you expect high numbers from. He’s steady, a decent floor general, and can have those eye-catching games every once in a while.


Immanuel Quickley
This fast guard who shifts between the 1 and the 2 has been a good bench piece. He has a really good floater game, can play inside, and has tremendous chemistry with fellow sophomore Obi Toppin, but sometimes his decision making can leave much to be desired. He’s received some unwanted recognition for deciding to dribble out and take a three while in the paint on a fast-break, and for pulling an atrocious crunch time long ball in the Cavs game earlier this year. But he’s young, he’ll learn, and he’ll get smarter with those shots. He’s a good investment that I fully expect to be a Knicks regular starter a couple of years down the line.


Cam Reddish
I hope this man gets more playing time than he’s gotten so far. He’s far too good to be a reserve/garbage time piece, and I think experimenting with his excellent chemistry with R.J Barrett would be fun to watch as well. There is no doubt that the Knicks won the Reddish-Knox Trade, barring either some horrible Hornets season or draft lottery mishap that’ll turn that Hornets pick into a war chest. Reddish opens up a bunch of options for the Knicks, giving them some not needed, but appreciated wing depth, a shiny new option for trades, with players like Murray, Brunson, and Turner with some Knicks interest and market availability. Or, keeping the old Duke boys together could give the Knicks a chance in the Zion sweepstakes when he hits the free agent market later down the line or in trades. But as for his play as a Knick, it’s too soon to make any judgments.


Obi Toppin
This is one of the most fun players to watch, Knick or otherwise. His high-flying antics always make him a highlight reel player, and that athleticism gives his a defensive potential that will hopefully develop further. Aside from that, he’s a good way to space the floor, has a three that can get you if you’re not ready for it, and has the Knicks fans’ seal of approval. I think that when some of the older guys move out of New York, his chemistry with IQ, and his willingness to play second or third fiddle in the offense will make for a fun starting lineup.


Nerlens Noel
His attendance isn’t the greatest, but much like his starting center Mitch, he’s a reliable, tall, high-ish flying defensive terror that can produce a little bit on offense. Nerlens is a great backup guy whose style doesn’t conflict with his starter, so the two can be swapped out pretty easily if one isn’t having the best night. That requires the two of them to be healthy though, so I’m not sure how well that’ll work.


Derrick Rose
I maintain that if given the keys to the offense and the starting role, D-Rose (a 2020-2021 NBA MVP vote getter) could play at an all-star level. Is that statement the most true thing? Probably not. But still, everything is there. He has supreme court vision, incredible finesse around the rim, a consistent jumper, even from the three. This, combined with a willingness to step back and not play hero ball all the time, makes Derrick Rose the go to point guard for the Knicks. But then why is he the 11th guy I cover? He’s hurt. That’s how it goes with Rose, unfortunately. He doesn’t get the minutes or role of a starter because Thibs, who coached him back in Chicago too, knows that giving Rose more minutes is playing with fire. When he gets back, we’ll have to see how he fits in to the Knicks point guard situation, or more accurately, their lack of one.


Taj Gibson
A veteran presence that the Knicks both need and enjoy. He’s a role player that most teams would kill for- a player that has enough skill to not only stay in the league and actually play well on the court, who also has enough experience to take younger players under his wing. Gibson is a pleasure to watch when he’s on the floor, playing savvy defense and with an inside game accompanied by the rare 3-ball. It also helps that his knowledge of both coach Tom Thibodeau and clutch time guard Derrick Rose can help others understand the system, as well as giving the other two former Bulls incentive to stay with their longtime buddies.


Quentin Grimes
A little bit of a surprise. He hasn’t been bouncing around between leagues like his draft buddy Miles McBride, and he hasn’t been a non-contributor for the Knicks either. The man is exactly what I said he would be, a good 3 and D guy. He played very well for the Knicks when they were dealing with the outbreak, but got COVID not long after his best performance, a 27 point game. Grimes has a lot of room to grow in both talent and role in the organization, but in terms of first stints go, it could have definitely been worse.


Miles McBride
It’s hard to write about Miles McBride as a Knick, as he’s played more in Westchester than in New York. However, in both the summer league and the time he’s gotten in the big leagues, he’s shown his defensive prowess and energy. He hustles like a man playing for a roster spot, which makes sense. Given more time, I think that we’ll see that McBride has enough upside to stay on a roster and get some minutes


Jericho Sims
It’s hard to say much about the man, fitting, since he doesn’t say much either. He has a raw athleticism and high flying game that will surely make him a fan favorite when he gets more minutes. He also looks to be a part of a Knicks center rotation that plays more traditional, inside focused basketball. We’ll see how his spot on the roster plays out, and what might happen if he ends up in Westchester.


So Now What?
I think that fans should expect to hear news about the Knicks during the trade deadline. Whether we actually make a trade or not, Leon Rose and crew will absolutely be scouring the market to see what they can do. Right now, we aren’t good enough to confidently say we’ll make the play in, but not nearly bad enough to get a pick worth wasting all the promise that the Knicks showed at the beginning of the year. But the biggest issue this year is the .500 basketball. The Knicks need to fall into order, and I think that Thibs is a coach who is capable of it. Maybe the break will give the Knicks fans a show to watch (I’d be surprised if the dunk contest doesn’t feature Obi Toppin), and give the Knicks a second to regroup and screw their heads on straight and march into the play-in picture.