NYC Analyst Urges One Lineup Swap as Quick Knicks Fix

Alec Burks, Knicks

Getty Alec Burks, Knicks

We’re only 15 games into the NBA season and while that means it is most certainly early, we have seen enough to make some assessments of what’s happening with the Knicks, who sit with a disappointing 8-7 mark that includes two losses to the rebuilding Orlando Magic.

There is no question the defense is struggling and the starting five has been dysfunctional. But how to fix it?

Veteran New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro had some ideas, and one in particular stands out: Putting Alec Burks into the starting lineup in place of free-agent signee Evan Fournier.

Vaccaro wrote that this could give the Knicks’ starting five a jolt:

Fournier has seemed tentative in his first few weeks as a Knick, and Burks has heated up of late, hitting 40 percent of his 3s (Fournier is at 35.1 percent). This doesn’t have to be permanent. But for now it might not be a bad idea to add a more potent weapon into the starting mix, and Burks is simply playing better, on both ends of the floor, than Fournier.

Swapping Burks Gives Knicks Starters a Hot Shooter

It is not a major overhaul by any stretch, but as it becomes clearer that coach Tom Thibodeau needs to do something to address the incredibly poor performance of the starting unit, it is the change that is least likely to cause a disruption in the chemistry of the second group.

Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley have both been outstanding lately off the bench, as have Obi Toppin and even 36-year-old Taj Gibson. Keeping that foursome together and simply swapping Burks for Fournier would keep its continuity—unlike a more drastic move like sending Rose into the starting five for Kemba Walker.

Burks has been solid from the 3-point line, especially in his past four games, when he has averaged 13.0 points, taking 7.8 3-pointers per game. He has made 41.9% of those. For the season, Burks is shooting just 39.4% from the field but 40.0% from the 3-point line.

Burks was a free agent who re-signed with the Knicks in the offseason, on a three-year, $30 million contract, with a team option for the final season.

“Free agency was good, but at the end of the day, I felt like wanted to be here,” Burks explained last month. “I felt like the future was bright and I wanted to just continue going with the same group of teammates we had. I feel like we have a great chance to be great again.”

Evan Fournier Has Struggled Recently

Fournier was the bigger Knicks signing in the offseason, getting a four-year deal worth $78 million, but he has dipped into a funk in the past two weeks. Overall, his numbers are not terrible—he is averaging 12.2 points and, like Burks, has not been great shooting from the field (40.6%) but has been decent enough at the 3-point line (35.1%).

But of the 183 points Fournier scored this season, 32 of those—or 17.5%–came in the season opener against the Celtics. Fournier has not passed the 20-point mark since and, in his last four games, has averaged 4.8 points on 30.8% shooting, with 21.4% 3-point shooting.

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