The Knicks relied heavily on power forward Julius Randle and shooting guard RJ Barrett to play a significant amount of minutes last season, as both played a minimum of 71 games and 35 minutes per. Putting so much pressure on their top players can be a recipe for disaster, as increased fatigue can lead to injury, but the Knicks have set themselves up perfectly to have several lineup combinations which can contribute toward an efficient team.
Last season, the Knicks struggled to put together a cohesive team with multiple combinations which can allow the primary starters to rest. During an 82-game season, it’s essential the reserves take on a bigger role.
Three player combination the Knicks can use to remain productive throughout 2021-22 season:
1.) The starting 5
C: Mitchell Robinson
SG: RJ Barrett
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Julius Randle
PG: Kemba Walker
This is the expected primary starting lineup, with the exception of Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose possibly swapping nightly. Replacing Reggie Bullock with Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton with Kemba represent huge upgrades in scoring prowess. Fournier should nearly double the production Bullock offered last season and take pressure off Randle — the former Celtic has the ability to create shots on his own instead of being solely a catch-and-shoot specialist.
C: Nerlens Noel
SG: RJ Barrett
SF: Alec Burks/Immanuel Quickley
PF: Julius Randle
PG: Derrick Rose
Considering how much Barrett and Randle played last season, they will both likely stay on the floor with the second team. However, the dropoff isn’t significant when comparing Alec Burks and Fournier – both are capable of playing guard and small forward. Fournier is a more refined shooter, but Burks is capable of leading the offense and hitting open shots at a high clip. In 2020, Burks connected on 41.5% of his 3-PT attempts. Interesting, nearly 50% of Burks’ points last season came from beyond the arc, which clearly indicates his most effective usage.
Of course, having a starting-level PG on the 2nd team is a huge development. Rose was a god-send for the Knicks after they acquired him at the deadline. He averaged nearly 15 points and elevated his teammates with a floor-general approach. The drop-off from Kemba to Rose isn’t far, as he offers more court-vision and facilitating abilities.
3.) The youngsters
C: Taj Gibson
SG: Immanuel Quickley
SG: Quentin Grimes
PF: Obi Toppin
PG: Miles McBride
The Knicks’ 3rd-team won’t earn a notable number of minutes, but they have the talent to offer rest to the first two combinations. Toppin will be Randle’s backup and will take over during garbage time or healthy leads to give him a break. With increased scoring production, the Knicks will get their rookies and younger players on the floor for essential live experience. Miles McBride showed solid offensive and defensive abilities during the Summer League, especially from 3-PT range. While I might prefer to have Jericho Sims on the roster over Taj Gibson, the coaching staff views him as an extension to their contributions.
I would be remiss to disregard Quentin Grimes, who was dominant over the last three Summer League games. He presents himself as a solid shooter and athletic defender. Grimes might push his way for more minutes at some point, but the team simply has too much talent ahead of him.