MSG Analyst Urges Knicks to Ditch High-Priced Starter

Julius Randle, New York Knicks

Getty Julius Randle and Evan Fournier of the New York Knicks look on during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers.

After their 2020-21 Cinderella story campaign where they nabbed the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and embarked on their first postseason run since 2013, the New York Knicks took to that subsequent offseason with the intentions of better bolstering their rotation and, in turn, setting themselves up for greater success during the following year.

Fast-forward to a year later, however, and we see that their win-now summer endeavors proved to be futile, as their top-billed acquisitions from the offseason in Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier both failed to live up to expectations in year one.

From the eye test to the advanced statistics that show that when removing all lineups including Walker and/or Fournier last season, New York’s net rating jumped from minus-0.1 to plus-5.3, it’s clear that the ball club is better set up for success when these veterans remain out of the lineup.

And while Leon Rose and company already decided to part ways with Walker, trading him to the Detroit Pistons on June 23, still residing on the Knicks’ roster is their $73 million wing.

Considering his lofty contract coupled with his recent underwhelming campaign, Fournier is likely to be viewed as a hard sell on the trade market and, because of this, the ball club is seemingly stuck with him heading into the new season.

Should this end up being the case, and New York enters 2022-23 with the 29-year-old still in tow, it is the belief of MSG Analyst Alan Hahn that Tom Thibodeau should look to place the full-time starter from 2021-22 on the bench.

The following day, on September 4, Hahn would go into greater detail on what he believes the starting lineup for the Knicks should look like, with Quentin Grimes taking Fournier’s spot at shooting guard.

“Grimes has the size and defensive potential that would be more effective next to Brunson in the backcourt than Evan Fournier,” Hahn wrote. “Yes, Fournier has the contract and the veteran status, but fit-wise, I’d be curious to see Grimes in that role and see if he can handle it. Fournier could be effective as a bench scorer with three-point shooting that is needed with that group and also versatile enough to play either wing spot with the starters when called upon.”

Despite his lacking impact in the starting lineup last season, Fournier still managed to put up solid per-game numbers, posting averages of 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.

Like Hahn said, his shooting abilities could prove to be a true blessing for the Knicks’ second-unit offense, as he boasts a career 38.1% long-range shooting clip while the team is coming off a season where they converted on just 34.3% of their attempts from deep.

Grimes a Knicks Favorite

During the heart of blockbuster negotiations this summer between the Knicks and Utah Jazz, it was reported that New York was willing to part ways with quite a number of assets, ranging from several unprotected picks to young prospects such as Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and even RJ Barrett.

However, one player that was consistently found on the outside looking in on trade talks was second-year guard, Quentin Grimes, who Marc Berman of the New York Post stated in an August 20 article was someone the Knicks’ front office was reluctant to trade away.

“There is belief around the league Thibodeau would prefer to give up Barrett in a deal than shooting guard Quentin Grimes, who is coming off a solid rookie year, and a summer league in which he looked quicker and more sculpted. Grimes is a better defender and 3-point shooter than Barrett…Ainge is hot to acquire Grimes for his Jazz rebuilding plan,” Berman wrote.

It is because of New York’s unwillingness to include their 2021 first-round selection in their talks for Donovan Mitchell — which inevitably fizzled out, as he was ultimately traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on September 1 — that Alan Hahn is urging the Knicks to give him an increased role this coming season.

In his eyes, if New York refused to include Grimes in trade talks for a perennial All-Star, the least they should do is insert him into the starting rotation over a guy in Fournier who according to reports, was continuously being shopped this summer.

Next Trade Target Could Surface Soon

Though the Knicks may have failed in their attempts to strike a trade for Donovan Mitchell, it may not take all that long for the franchise to find themselves in pursuit of another quality talent available on the trade market.

In fact, Bill Simmons, sports analyst and host of “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” insinuated on an August 3 episode that New York should be happy they held onto their assets in the wake of the Mitchell sweepstakes, as he thinks another top-billed talent could be shopped as soon as the early stages of the 2022-23 season.

“I’d rather have [RJ] Barrett, I’d rather have the picks and the capital for a trade down the road with the next unhappy superstar who’s gonna, by the way, be available probably in two months,” Simmons said.

Perhaps the most popular player that people are hoping could be that “next unhappy superstar” is OKC Thunder combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who Marc Berman specifically mentioned as being a legitimate option the Knicks could consider in a September 1 article.

Since being selected 11 overall back in the 2018 NBA Draft, the 24-year-old has managed to establish himself as one of the best young talents currently in the league and is coming off of the best season of his young career, as he finished off 2021-22 with stellar per-game averages of 24.5 points, 5.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and just shy of a block.

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