SPANISH HARLEM – The NBA is back, as training camp started on Tuesday. Most teams have a few question marks to sort but organizations like the New York Knicks have a laundry list of decisions they have to make before the opening jump ball. I will touch on a couple that come to mind and as the weeks go by, give you some things to think about as we get closer to the tipoff.
Starting Line Up & Rotation
The only sure bets to start on the roster is RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson but every other first-string spot is up for grabs. The team will want to add good outside shooters to space the floor for those Barrett and Robinson, so it will be interesting to see where they go to get the best out of those two. You want them to develop by putting them in an offense that will benefit their strengths.
Obi Toppin is ready-made and many expect the Knicks top pick to produce from the get-go. It’s easy to see him next to Robinson with his ability to space the floor but that is only if Tom Thibodeau is willing to give the first-year player big minutes as a rookie… Julius Randle is another option, as the Knicks top money-maker and most established scorer. He may not be a fit, though, due to his ball-hogging ways… Kevin Knox had been working out with big man coach, Kenny Payne, and looks prime to get big minutes at that position. Payne could be a surprise starter if he improves on defense.
The guard position could be tricky, depending on how they see Barrett in the line up. With his size he can play his preferred position of shooting guard or start at small forward. Reggie Bullock is another possible starter at the position if they prefer to go with a true small forward. The Knicks also signed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to help but I see him more of defender that can guard multiple positions and most likely won’t start any games.
You would think that Frank Ntilikina has a good chance to start because of his ability to play defense across most positions and Thibbs loves guys that are versatile defensively… Elfrid Payton was brought back on another one-year deal and can provide good defense as well. He was the team’s best point guard last season so he has a good opportunity but his inability to consistently hit three pointers could hinder that as Thibs wants to space the floor.
At the other wing spot, you have players like Alec Burks and Austin Rivers, who are capable outside shooters and have the ability to get buckets when the team needs them. I would assume Burks has the upper hand, as he is a better defender, but what Rivers gives you is a heat-check guy that can create his own shots. I liked both signings because they didn’t cost much and will provide Thibs the ability to mix and match during the game. Neither will knock your socks off but are capable players that provide good production from the guard spot.
Any Other Moves To Make?
The aforementioned Julius Randle is a player that Leon Rose and the Knicks organization have been trying to trade for most of the offseason. Rose has said the right things about keeping him and making the most of his abilities but he was not a good fit with Robinson when they played together. Randle is basically on a one-year contract with a 4 million dollar buyout for next season and even if he stays with the team for the whole season, his 3rd year option will not be picked up.
The Knicks are looking to get an asset for him and only time will tell if there becomes a need for another club that’s willing to take on that contract and give up something of value in return. Teams looking for a cap relief option for next year or maybe one looking for an extra scorer on a contending team. He is not a building block in New York, so it would be wise to move him but not at any cost. You can always keep him and let him walk the following year but if he stays on the team it will hard not to see him get significant minutes. I expect him to get traded but who really knows with these Knicks.
Come Back Tomorrow for Mr Slam Dunk.
Until Next Time…