Knicks: 3 players who need to step up against the Cavaliers

Moses Brown, Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
Apr 2, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Moses Brown (6) and New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are gearing up to face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening series of the playoffs, but they’re still unsure if Julius Randle will be ready for action.

Reports have indicated that Randle is making good progress and could be available for Game 1, but it may be a risky strategy, especially if he re-aggravates the sprained left ankle.

Nonetheless, Randle is an essential variable to the Knicks’ success this year and what hopes to be a great postseason run. However, other players will need to step up to help supplement deficiencies and simply elevator their game against a strong Cleveland squad.

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Three players for the Knicks who need to step up:

1.) Mitchell Robinson

First on the list is big man Mitchell Robinson, who has a challenging task ahead of him with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley prowling the paint.

Robinson is averaging 7.4 points and 9.4 rebounds this year, a career-high. He missed the first few weeks of the regular season but has been a solid defensive player for the Knicks up to this point, posting a 109.5 defensive rating.

Over the last three games, Robinson is averaging 28 minutes, scoring 10.3 points, and averaging 15.7 rebounds per game. With Randle off the floor, Robinson’s rebound numbers have skyrocketed, tallying 20 in their season finale loss to the Indiana Pacers. His blocks have also taken a big jump, recording seven apiece over his last two games.

For the Knicks to win the series, they need their big men to be aggressive on the rebounding front.

2.) Quentin Grimes

The Knicks have gotten phenomenal play from Quentin Grimes this season, who is averaging 11.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and shooting 38.6% from beyond the arc. In fact, in the month of April, he’s averaging 24.8 points, shooting 46.5% from three, and hosts a 56.3% field goal rate.

Grimes has become a potent score when given the opportunity to shoot frequently, and with Jalen Brunson resting and battling a few injuries, his role has expanded significantly.

The Knicks will need Grimes to step up defensively, though, especially if they ask him to face guard Donovan Mitchell, one of the league’s elite scorers. Ultimately, there’s no stopping Mitchell, but they can limit him to a degree, and Grimes will play a big part in that.

3.) RJ Barrett

RJ Barrett has experienced a tough fourth season in the NBA, posting 19.6 points per game, five rebounds, and shooting a measly 31% from downtown.

Most of his offensive numbers have taken a step back, suggesting his role on the team is yet to be defined. Barrett once set a goal for himself to win Defensive Player of the Year, but that, unfortunately, hasn’t come to fruition. They need Barrett to hit his shots from three and convert in the paint, but he’s sometimes become more of a liability than an asset.

It will be interesting to see how head coach Tom Thibodeau utilizes Barrett during the playoffs. His success could be the catalyst for the Knicks against the Cavs.