Knicks’ starting five set to change as they take on Atlanta on Christmas Day

new york knicks, rj barrett

Coming off a disappointing defeat to the Washington Wizards on Thursday evening, the New York Knicks will look to bounce back against the Atlanta Hawks on Christmas Day. The Hawks will be without Kevin Huerter, Trae Young, and Wes Iwundu.

Young has burned the Knicks in the past, notably last season in the playoffs. However, they have the luxury of avoiding him on Christmas due to health and safety protocols as a result of a positive Covid test.

Luckily for the Knicks, they are getting back several key contributors, including Immanuel Quickley, who cleared protocols on Friday. With a number of impact players returning for the Knicks, the starting five could change with head coach Tom Thibodeau considering more moves.

With Kemba Walker having three consecutive double-digit point games, it will be difficult for Thibodeau to extract him from the starting five. Alec Burks replaced Walker after being exiled to the bench for nine games, in which the Knicks lost eight of them. Walker posted 44 points against Washington, tallying nine rebounds and assists.

Walker’s resurgence following the benching has been inspiring, and the team has rallied around him despite New York giving up 124 points in the loss to Washington.

The starting five will likely remain mostly the same, with the exception of Burks heading to the bench and RJ Barrett replacing him at the shooting guard spot. Thibodeau indicated that Barrett still needs to work his stamina back up after dealing with Covid symptoms, but Saturday could be a good opportunity for him to get some action in a limited role.

However, it is quite excited to see Walker proving his value after the Knicks offered him a two-year, $17 million deal this past off-season to help rejuvenate the point guard position. With Derrick Rose also undergoing surgery on his right ankle, they will need every ounce of Kemba for the next eight weeks before Rose’s reevaluation.

Taking a look at Atlanta, they’re coming off a slim win over the Philadelphia 76ers, with Cam Reddish leading the way posting 18 points. The Hawks are still a strong team without Young, so the Knicks will need to bring the intensity.