The New York Knicks are coming off a blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday evening, courtesy of the Pacers’ entire starting team that all posted double-digit points. Scoring big man Myles Turner presented yet another reason for the Knicks to gauge his price at the trade deadline this year, posting 23 points and showcasing dominance at multiple levels.
It’s becoming clear New York is in desperate need of a center that can contribute in more ways than just rebounding. Mitchell Robinson had a fantastic 13-rebound performance against San Antonio coming off the bench, but he recorded just two against Indiana, displaying more inconsistencies.
At this point, Tom Thibodeau and the front office need to make a few changes, whether they be with the lineup or adding more talent at the deadline. At this rate, the Knicks will miss the post-season just one year after establishing themselves as a defensive powerhouse. A lack of 3-and-D players isn’t exactly what Thibodeau was looking for when the team allowed Reggie Bullock to walk in free agency in favor of Evan Fournier, who has been a liability on defense all season.
However, the Knicks are preparing to take on the Toronto Raptors, who are three games below .500 at 11-14. In fact, Toronto is 4-9 at home this season, giving the Knicks a slight advantage, despite ESPN’s power index giving the Raptors a 57.1% chance of victory.
Let’s take a look at three players the Knicks need to step up:
1.) RJ Barrett
Barrett has been inconsistent this season, to say the least, but is bouncing back nicely after a bout with the stomach bug and the change in basketball. Barrett has recorded games of 32 points and 19 points in consecutive games, showcasing some of his offensive prowess. However, Barrett’s defense has regressed compared to last season, primarily due to a lack of chemistry and communication with his teammates.
Against Toronto, Barrett needs to step up defensively and have enough productive game from the field, otherwise, the team will have to rely on the second team, which is always risky.
2.) Mitchell Robinson
Robinson has been dealing with stamina issues as of late, stating he gets tired after 7-8 minutes on the floor. When he’s not rebounding, Robinson is a total liability as an offensive threat. His defense is solid when his energy levels are high, but the second he runs out of gas, teams begin dominating in transition.
Thibs has tried to supplement Robinson’s exhaustion by starting him on the bench, but they need him to be at peak performance, especially with more than 20 games already under his belt this season. Toronto is a smaller team, so Robinson should dominate on the boards, giving the Knicks second chances.
3.) Evan Fournier
The Knicks may be regretting the massive $72 million deal they offered Fournier this past offseason, simply based on his non-existent defense. When Fournier isn’t knocking down shots, he’s a complete liability, which has hurt the Knicks’ defensive efficiency. Against Toronto, they need Fournier to create opportunities for himself and knock them down, all the while interrupting passing lanes. His primary use on defense is racking up steals, as his slow feet and poor communication have hurt his team.
Fournier has posted 14 combined points over the past two games, shooting no higher than 33% from 3-PT range.