The New York Knicks may not have landed Donovan Mitchell this offseason, but they did steal away Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks to be their point guard of the future.
It’s been a long time coming for the Knicks as the point guard position has become a revolving door for them for the past several years, so finding somebody to anchor the spot is a big deal.
Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz says the upgrade from Kemba Walker to Brunson is “one of the biggest positional upgrades of the entire NBA offseason,” so it’s clear people are a fan of the move.
Even without Mitchell, the team should be better than they were last season with Brunson running the show, and adding Isaiah Hartenstein as a backup center is big deal as well.
In a ranking of the starting lineups in the Eastern Conference, Swartz puts them at number 10, but says they could climb as high as the top half.
Knicks Could Climb
With a starting lineup consisting of Brunson, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, it’s clear the Knicks have a group of solid players, but there’s no real star in there.
Randle is now two seasons removed from being named to the All-NBA team, and it’s not clear if he’ll be able to recapture that type of form again with New York. With Brunson in town, Randle won’t have to play with the ball in his hands as often anymore, and the jury is still out on whether that’ll have a positive or negative impact on him.
The weak link of the lineup is Fournier, and while he’s a good shooter, he just doesn’t bring enough to the table defensively that a coach like Tom Thibodeau would prefer.
Swartz believes in the Knicks bench Fournier and Barrett takes another leap forward, the starting lineup could become one of the best in the conference.
“Randle will have a bounce-back season playing next to a proven point guard like Brunson, as will Robinson as a lob target after his new floor general breaks down perimeter defenders,” he said. “If Barrett can make an All-Star leap and Fournier gets moved to the bench, this unit could finish in the top half of the conference.”
Tough Decision to Make
For the Knicks to bring Fournier off the bench, they’d have to become okay with one of their highest paid players becoming the sixth man. That’s not all that strange, but considering Fournier signed a $73 million deal just last offseason, it would be a major shift.
To help soften the blow, the Knicks do have a rising guard in Quentin Grimes, somebody the organization greatly values, so he could step into the role and perhaps help the team make a leap.
Swartz believes Grimes can do that, and if he can’t then Immanuel Quickley has the chance to do it.
“Not trading for Donovan Mitchell is by no means a death sentence for the offense, either, as young guards like Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley could each make their case for a starting job at some point this season if/when Tom Thibodeau does the right thing by benching Fournier,” he wrote.
At the start of the season, we’ll likely see Fournier with the starters, but a lot of things can change over the course of a season.