Top 5 storylines for Knicks preseason games

To some, it’s just the preseason games. But don’t tell that to the New York Knicks fans who will troop to the Garden and cheer out for their team after spending most of last season cheering from their couch.

The preseason games are not lacking in drama as there are many storylines to be unpacked when the retooled Knicks plunge back into action after a surprising playoff run and a solid offseason.

The Knicks will play four preseason games, three at the Garden in what is expected to be a full capacity crowd in one of the most anticipated seasons in franchise history in a long while.

Knicks Preseason Schedule:

Pacers @ Knicks Oct. 5, 7:30 pm

Knicks @ Wizards Oct. 9, 7:00 pm

Pistons @ Knicks Oct. 13, 7:30 pm

Wizards @ Knicks Oct. 15, 7:30 pm

Let’s take a look at the five most intriguing storylines of the Knicks’ preseason.

First look at reloaded backcourt

Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier will have their Garden debut as a Knick in their preseason opener.

Walker and Fournier arrived with much fanfare and are viewed as upgrades over former starters Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock.

It will be interesting to see how Tom Thibodeau will manage Walker, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley’s minutes.

The One That Got Away

The Knicks reportedly tried to trade up for Oregon star Chris Duarte in the draft. And the Knicks will have the chance to size up the one prospect that got away right in their preseason opener.

Actually, it will be Duarte’s second game against the Knicks, but it will be his first against their entire lineup. Duarte made quite an impression in his Summer League debut in Indiana Pacers’ loss to the Knicks. The 24-year old lived up to his billing as a ready-made 3-and-D player with his solid play on both ends of the court as he came away with a full line: 14 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.

Done with Broadway drama

The Knicks will play two games against the new-look Wizards, who scooped up Spencer Dinwiddie and picked up Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell from the Los Angeles Lakers for Russell Westbrook.

Dinwiddie, who essentially replaces Westbrook, had a love and hate relationship with the Knicks fans and media following his exit from crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets.

A segment of the fan base wanted him to be a Knick before Walker came along. New York Post stirred the pot with a report that he wanted no part of it.

Dinwiddie quickly shut down the report as he moves on from the drama in New York for the much laidback atmosphere in the nation’s capital.

Dinwiddie is happy and content that he got his bag in Washington as Bradley Beal’s new backcourt partner. But there will be no love lost for sure when he plays his first game at the Garden following his Nets stint.

MotorCade at the Garden

The top overall pick Cade Cunningham will make his Garden debut when the Detroit Pistons visit New York on Oct. 13.

Cunningham hit seven triples in what came down as his coming out party in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Thibodeau will definitely map out a defensive game plan against the gifted rookie.

Last chance to catch the bus

The preseason games will be Luca Vildoza’s final test before the Knicks decide on his team’s option for the upcoming season. The team has until the opening night whether to keep the Argentine guard or let him go.

After a month of training with the Knicks player development staff, Vildoza had an underwhelming performance in Argentina’s Olympic quest. He went scoreless in the Summer League before he was shut down due to a foot injury.

Veteran guard Dwayne Bacon, who signed an Exhibit 10 deal, is lurking in the background and remains to be the biggest threat to Vildoza.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks still vying for Chris Duarte post-draft, land Clemson F Aamir Simms, save ton of money with trades

knicks, chris duarte

The New York Knicks had two 3-and-D style players in mind in the 2021 NBA draft. With the front office targeting Oregon guard Chris Duarte, the Knicks found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Trying to move up in the draft, they failed to execute with a partner, settling for their second-tier option, Houston stand-out Quentin Grimes.

However, despite missing out on Duarte, the Knicks were still looking to acquire his services after the draft finished.

According to the Indy Star, the Knicks were in hot pursuit of Chris Duarte even after the draft concluded:

Long after the NBA Draft concluded Thursday, there were exchanges between the Pacers, Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks for the 6-6 forward.

Clearly, they see Duarte as a potential star player, having averaged 17.1 points, 2.7 assists, 1.9 steals, and shot 53% from the field last season. His most impressive statistic, though, was his 42% success rate from three, averaging 5.5 attempts per game.

He is the exact fit for Tom Thibodeau and his defensive style with the addition of offensive scoring. Grimes offers something very similar, but they saw more potential with the Oregon product.

Knicks land forward Aamir Simms out of Clemson:

The Knicks landed Aamir Simms as an undrafted free agent after the draft ended on Thursday.

Last season with Clemson, Simms posted 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and shot 53% from the field. He is a solid forward with potential. He will likely develop behind the scenes and potentially with the Westchester Knicks.

The Knicks saved themselves even more, cash to allocate during free agency:

A flurry of trades in the first round contributed in multiple ways for New York, adding both draft capital for the future and saving money. The Knicks traded the 19th overall selection to the Charlotte Hornets for a future conditional first-round pick and then traded back with the Los Angeles Clippers, offering the 21st pick in exchange for the 25th and a future second-rounder.

This move had impressive implications, as the Knicks saved about $2 million they can reallocate toward a potential free agent. They have big plans for this August, as the market is littered with talent. Expect to see a few FA pickups and the signing of a veteran point guard to help West Virginia draft pick Miles McBride develop his game. Bringing back Derrick Rose could be a priority.

Knicks Rumors: Pacers potential trade partner at 13, Davion Mitchell and Chris Duarte are primary targets

davion mitchell, knicks

In less than 24 hours, the New York Knicks will know the future of their draft selections. With the 19, 21, and 32nd overall picks in the first round, reports have heavily indicated the front office is trying to move up. They haven’t been able to find any suitors.

After gauging Golden State’s interest in moving back to 19 from the 14th overall pack, the Knicks have now shifted their attention to the Indiana Pacers at 13.

According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, the Knicks have contacted the Pacers at 13 to gauge interest in a trade back:

According to NBA sources, the Knicks have talked not just to Golden State about moving up, but also to the Pacers, who have the 13th pick. The Knicks are trying to package their two first-round picks but may also have to add more draft capital (they have a total of 20 picks through 2026).

President Leon Rose and the executives have two players in mind, Davion Mitchell out of Baylor and Chris Duarte out of Oregon.

Mitchell is a combo guard who offers elite defense right out of the gate. Having won an NCAA Championship and experienced a positive increase in offensive production this past season, averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 assists, Mitchell would fit the bill perfectly as a developmental point guard behind a veteran.

Mitchell connected on 51% of his shots from the field and 44% from range over 4.7 attempts per game. He is a refined defensive player, something that Thibodeau values significantly in young talent. However, he also contains the ability to score with aggression and shoot adequately.

Duarte is a bit different, offering his services as a shooting guard. He is an ideal 3-and-D player, someone who can replace Reggie Bullock, who is preparing to leave in free agency. Duarte averaged 17.1 points and shot 53% from the field with Oregon this past season. His most impressive statistic, though, was his 42% success rate from three, averaging 5.5 attempts per game.

With these two names in mind, the Knicks are desperately trying to find a trade partner, and it will likely boil down to the final moments. Alternative clubs know that New York is desperate, as they simply can’t host four rookies. They are likely trying to extract as much value as possible.

Knicks News: Warriors reject trade with New York, Chris Duarte a big target

chris duarte, knicks

The Knicks are heading toward a dead end with their attempts to trade up in the 2021 NBA Draft. President Leon Rose is sitting with three first round selections, but teams simply don’t want to move out of the lottery, no matter how many additional picks they’re gaining. The latest report indicates that the Knicks have contacted the Golden State Warriors to gauge their interest in a potential trade, which would give them the 14th overall pick.

Golden State rejected the offer; New York is going to have to put together a more enticing package that involves more than just the 19th and 21st selections.

According to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, the Knicks have already been rejected once from trading up:

“A source says the Knicks have made calls to late-lottery teams about trading up. I’m told the Warriors turned down Nos. 19 and 21 for No. 14. The Knicks don’t have strong enough draft assets to get into the top 10, and now it seems like a long shot they can get into the late lottery.”

If New York can’t manage to move up a few spots, it is entirely possible they sit right where they are and target a few quality prospects. Options like Sharife Cooper, Trey Murphy III, Isaiah Jackson, and Jared Butler could be up for grabs. One player who is climbing the draft board is Chris Duarte out of Oregon, who recently worked out for the Knicks and is excited about the perspective idea of joining them next season.

“It will be great! New York has a big Dominican Republic population. I know I will have their support here. I know that it’s gonna go crazy if I end up in New York. We’ll see what happens,” Duarte said of potentially landing with the Knicks on Tuesday via a Zoom call.

Duarte is a fantastic three point shooter, averaging 17.1 points last season on 42% shooting from range. He averaged 5.5 attempts per game, hitting on 2.3. He also shot 53% from the field over 11.6 attempts, showcasing efficiency in both categories. He would be an ideal 3-and-D player for Tom Thibodeau, featuring as a primary guard. At 6’6″ and 190 pounds, Duarte could add a bit more mass to his frame. He projects as a versatile shot maker, who has elite mechanics and effectiveness. Duarte is 24 years old, far older than the average prospect in the first round, similar to Obi Toppin last year.

Overall, Duarte is a prospect with great upside but lacks a bit of physicality inside around the rim. He doesn’t get to the free-throw line enough and relies heavily on a shooting prowess to carry his offensive production. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the Knicks need a versatile scorer they can depend on to drive to the rim, as well as connect on shots from being on the arc. Currently, the Oregon product ranks 23rd on ESPN’s best available board, but he is climbing the ranks and could be in the conversation at 19 for the Knicks.

Ready-made Chris Duarte and his NBA journey appeals to Knicks

knicks, chris duarte

Will Chris Duarte fall on the lap of the New York Knicks on Thursday’s NBA Draft?

Chris Duarte’s road to the NBA was so rocky that a man of a lesser character would have been floored and quit.

But not Duarte, who traveled thousands of miles and took a detour just to reach his destiny.

There was homesickness he had to fight. There was a language barrier he had to breach. Then fatherhood — a life-altering responsibility — threatened to pull him away from the game just as when he was about to make his jump from JUCO to a mid-major program in Oregon.  

But through all of these trials, his immediate family and extended family stood by his side.

“They’ve been there since day one. Their support has been very, very important in my career,” Duarte said on Tuesday during his NBA Draft media availability. I was 16, 17 years old without money, without anything.”

Duarte scrapped and clawed his way from the bottom to get this far, just a few days away from reaching the top basketball league in the world. He remembered when he was at the Redemption Christian Academy in rural Massachusets, and he had to borrow a phone just to be able to talk to his family back home.

“My family’s support was really important. The phone calls never stopped. Every day, I got a phone call from somebody in the family. I’m coming from a very, very tight family. My mom talks to me, giving me advice, telling me life is not easy. You’re gonna go through a lot. You’re gonna go through life’s ups and downs, and you got to keep your head up and fight through it,” Duarte said.

“My brother from Canada sends me money sometimes. Not a lot. A hundred bucks, but it was already good for me to take care of myself over there at my high school,” he added.

Those challenges made him mentally tough that translated well on the hardcourt.

Duarte had to learn the English language first before he could showcase his basketball talent. All alone in a foreign land, he had to work hard for every opportunity.

There’s not a lot of success stories for players out of junior colleges.

But Duarte found ways to beat the odds. He made the most out of the opportunity, leading Northwest Florida State College to a state championship and two straight Elite Eighth appearances in the NCJAA. He capped off his Raiders’ stint with a JUCO Player of the Year award in his sophomore year that became his ticket to transfer to a mid-major program.

That’s when he got his Puerto Rican girlfriend pregnant.

“My girlfriend’s parents — when they found out we were having a baby — they told me to ‘go back to school and do what you gonna do. Finish school, and then you take care of your family. We got you.’ That was big for me in my career. I couldn’t be here without them,” said Duarte.

With new motivation, Duarte was determined not to waste his golden opportunity. Oregon Ducks coach Dana Altman, a former JUCO player himself, gave Duarte the exposure he needed in the Pac-12 Conference to realize his NBA dream.

He responded by showing out big time at Oregon as he became one of the country’s top sharpshooters. Over his two years with the Ducks, he shot 38 percent from the three-point range peaking at 42.4 percent during his senior season. He won the Jerry West Award as the country’s best shooting guard.

The combination of his toughness, shooting, and shot creation made him one of the top prospects.

NBA scouts view him as one of the most-ready made prospects in this draft class.

“I’m 24 years old,” Duarte told teams who worked him out. “If you want to win right now, go ahead and take me. If you want to win six or eight years later, go ahead and draft an 18-year-old kid and develop him.”

It was a confident pitch that he backed up with his solid play on the court as a two-way player.

His stock dramatically rose after deliberately missing the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last month. The mystery surrounding him had intrigued lottery teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder (6th, 16th, and 18th), Golden State Warriors (7th and 14th), Charlotte Hornets (11th), San Antonio Spurs (12th). The Washington Wizards (15th) and the New York Knicks (19th, 21st) are teams on the outside looking in.

The Warriors loom to be his favorite landing spot after bringing him for a second workout last week. But the Knicks are reportedly looking to trade up, possibly to snag him.

The Knicks invited him for a solo workout last week that went great, according to Duarte himself.

“I met with the front office, Wes [William Wesley], Leon [Rose], those guys. The workout went great,” Duarte said. “I got better in the workout. I really enjoyed my time there. They want to know me off the court to see the person I am. They know what I did on the court in my two years at Oregon.’’

Duarte’s successful navigation of the challenging route he took to the NBA greatly appealed to the Knicks. He fits their culture and timeline.

“We’ll see what happens,” Duarte said. “My goal is to play in the NBA and stay there for a long time. So we’ll see what happens. I like the Knicks. I like Golden State. So we’ll see what happens.”

He had a great talk with the Knicks brass, especially with Thibodeau, who gravitates to tough, high-character players like Duarte. It seems there’s a mutual admiration.

“The Knicks are a great team. And we saw it last year,” he said. “Me and coach (Thibodeau) had a great talk. I know the way he wants his team to play. That’s the way I like to play, too.”

“He likes pushing the ball, playing hard offensively and defensively. That’s the way I play. That’s the way we play in Oregon. He’s a great coach, and he’s the kind of coach I want to play for. But at the end of the day, I cannot control that. It’s up to the teams.”

Duarte hopes that his unlikely and challenging journey to the NBA becomes an inspiration to the younger generations in the Dominican Republic.

“I’m very proud to represent DR. Not a lot of kids make it out. Just me, being one of them, being on the biggest stage [of basketball], it means a lot to me and my people and my country,” Duarte said.

And it will be more special if he ends up in New York, where it has a slice of life back home. Manhattan’s ‘Little Dominican Republic’ will be proud to have one of their own play for the home team.

“It will be great. New York has a big Dominican Republic population. I know I will have their support here. I know that it’s going to go crazy if I end up in New York,” Duarte said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks targeting best 3-point shooter in NBA Draft as potential 1st round selection

chris duarte, knicks

The New York Knicks hosted Oregon sharpshooter Chris Duarte on Friday for a solo workout as he climbs the draft board prior to July 29. With the draft just three days away, the Knicks are doing extensive research on multiple players who can contribute immediately, and Duarte represents one of them.

While ESPN has Duarte as the 23rd best prospect, the 24-year-old brings an element to the NBA that most teams are desperately seeking, elite three-point shooting. Last season with Oregon, Duarte connected on 42.4% of the shots from downtown, averaging 5.5 three-pointers per game. In addition, he averaged 17.1 points, 1.9 steals, and shot 43% from the field. He is the ideal 3-and-D player to supplement the potential loss of Reggie Bullock. While Duarte is primarily a guard, he has solid size at 6’6″, 190-pounds.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Oregon prospect is climbing draft boards:

“Duarte received an invite to the draft Green Room at Barclays Center and his stock is rising in eyes of teams. Golden State and New York are among the teams eyeing Duarte, who has a second workout with the Warriors on Sunday, sources said.”

With elite mechanics and footwork, Duarte has the potential to be a fantastic scorer at the NBA level and given his adequate defense, he can be an influential variable in the Knicks’ future success. As the team eyes, a deeper postseason run next year, they have plenty of resources to upgrade multiple positions, operating with $50+ million in free agency funds and four draft selections.

However, the front office is reportedly seeking a potential trade-up in the draft, and with Duarte watching his stock elevate, it is possible they move up a few spots to guarantee his selection in the middle of the first round. As an 81% free-throw shooter last year and 70% at-the-rim field-goal percentage, the best of any college guard in the draft, there’s no question he is a prolific scorer with natural instincts.

Duarte also has solid defensive abilities but could use a bit more mass to aid functional strength. His 1.9 steals per game stands out significantly and will undoubtedly contribute toward a defensive heavy mindset with head coach Tom Thibodeau. Duarte is a player I would have my eye on as the draft nears.

How would you feel about the Knicks taking Duarte in the first round? Comment below!