The New York Knicks face a significant problem after a disappointing loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday evening. Having lost three of their last four games, New York is staring down the barrel of fluidity and chemistry problems.
At the beginning of the season, the starting unit seemed to have better ball movement and efficiency, but they have slowly regressed to a point where they are relying on the second team to pick up the slack.
In their most recent loss to Orlando, the starting team failed to make significant contributions, as free agent acquisitions Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier contributed just 10 points. Recording just 98 points at home against one of the worst teams in the NBA is simply unacceptable, especially when your All-Star power forward is only posting 13 points. While RJ Barrett contributed 17, he missed all seven of his three-point attempts in the loss.
Despite picking up another home defeat, the issues with the starting team didnâ€™t commence against Orlando, theyâ€™ve existed for the past few games. A lack of fluidity and chemistry has become apparent, especially on the defensive side. The Knicks did a solid job holding Orlando to just 28.9% shooting from three, but they allowed every starter to score double-digit points, including 19 from Terrence Ross off the bench.
When looking at the team objectively, Walker and Fournier seem to be liabilities on both sides at the moment. After signing Fournier to a four-year, $78 million deal, they expected him to have a more impactful presence, recording a high of just 11 points over the past five games. He has shot below 33% in each of those contests from beyond the arc, playing 19+ minutes in each.
Fournier presents a clear-cut vulnerability on defense, and when heâ€™s not offering scoring production, heâ€™s virtually useless. Nonetheless, head coach Tom Thibodeau has no choice but to roll with him until he finds his shot once again. Walker, on the other hand, has been incredibly streaky this season as well. Over the past five games, Walker has enjoyed two solid performances, scoring 16 and 26 points. However, in the other three games, he scored 8 points or less, including 2 against Milwaukee last Wednesday. The streaky-ness that Kemba has displayed simply isnâ€™t sustainable and hasnâ€™t given the Knicks the advantage they anticipated after signing him to a two-year contract.
Walker and Fournier present a similar complex, little to no defense and when their scoring is off, they present massive liabilities. Thibodeau would prefer to avoid messing with the second-team combination since they’ve been playing so well lately. Against Orlando, though, he tried to get creative with Barrett, Randle, and Immanuel Quickley on the floor simultaneously, but it wasnâ€™t enough to help them over the edge.
There is no specific combination that will solve the starter’s flaws, but rather moving the ball adequately and finding space on the floor to maximize their playmakers. It seems as if the entire first team is perplexed as a result of selfish play. Every player seems to feel as though they need to be a creator when posting up in the corner and presenting an option is simply all that is required at times.