Knicks: Randle believes Walker-Fournier addition makes them more versatile

The New York Knicks have supercharged their offense with the acquisition of four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and Frenchman gunner Evan Fournier.

Walker and Fournier are essentially replacing the ineffective Elfrid Payton and the Knicks’ top perimeter defender but limited offensive player Reggie Bullock.

Payton has since hooked up with the Phoenix Suns while Bullock jettisoned to the Dallas Mavericks.

In theory, the Walker-Fournier tandem that played beautiful music together, albeit briefly, in Boston, is bringing more offensive punch that was sorely lacking when they fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 4-1, in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Walker and Fournier had a combined average of 36.4 points and close to 10 assists last season, a huge upgrade compared to the 21 points and close to five assists that the Payton-Bullock provided in the previous season.

When healthy, Walker is one of the better point guards in the league. A maestro in pick-and-roll who packs a deadly pull-up game and a decent outside shot (36-percent three-point shooter in his career), Walker will command the respect of the defense, which Payton never had last season.

Meanwhile, Fournier is a more dynamic playmaker and shot-creator in the wings that the catch-and-shoot specialist Bullock will never become.

Their addition is expected to lessen the offensive burden on Knicks’ All-NBA second team forward Julius Randle, who was shackled in the playoffs.

“It means a lot. Those guys are, obviously, very versatile players. They can do a lot of different things on the court. They can really shoot the ball. I’m excited about that. I think they are gonna make us more talented,” Randle said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated

While the Knicks have addressed their glaring weakness on offense which was exposed in the playoffs, the perception around the league is that the Knicks’ top-four defense (107.8 defensive rating) would take a hit.

Payton ranked fourth among point guards in ESPN’s defensive real-plus minus with 2.5 DRPM (DRPM is the player’s estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions). Walker was ranked 30th with -0.30 DRPM.

Bullock was the second-best among all small forwards with 3.74 DRPM behind Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris (4.00 DRPM). Fournier ranked 26th among shooting guards with 0.16 DRPM, with RJ Barrett at third with 3.00 DRPM. Barrett is expected to slide to small forward and replace Bullock as the Knicks’ top perimeter defender.

“With Reggie, Elfrid, and all those guys, what they brought to our team was tremendous,” Randle said. So, obviously, [Walker and Fournier] gonna add a lot of offensively for us. But for us, as a team, our main thing has to be the main thing. And that is we come in every night and play with tremendous energy and defend. So as long as we do that, we’ll be fine.”

There is no doubt that the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, will not let their vaunted defense dip. Collectively, the Knicks are still one of the best defensive teams on paper with the re-signing of Nerlens Noel and the return of Mitchell Robinson from injury.

With more shooting and talent around him this time, Randle worked on his rim attacking and off the bounce game this summer with his trainer Tyler Relph as he expects less double team.

“I think we’ll see great improvement so we just have to make sure that we’re coming in locked in and play defense, get stops because the rest of the league doesn’t like doing that. Offensively, honestly, that’s really the easy part,” Randle said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: Is Evan Fournier really a big upgrade over Reggie Bullock?

evan fournier, knicks

After a solid season from Reggie Bullock, the New York Knicks elected to let him hit free agency in search of a new team. Averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field, Bullock was one of the players who could’ve reached an extension with the Knicks, but instead, they elected to retain Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose, and Alec Burks. Bullock was, unfortunately, the odd man out, despite shooting 41% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

Ultimately, Bullock is a spot shooter that rarely creates opportunities for others, which could be viewed as a negative as more pressure was placed on players like Julius Randle and RJ Barrett to make something out of nothing. To supplement the departure of Bullock, the Knicks went out and signed Evan Fournier to a four-year, $73 million deal with an out after the third season. He will earn an average of about $18 million per season, a contract that dwarfs Bullock’s deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Reggie signed a three-year, $30 million deal, similar to the contract Burks’s landed with New York.

However, when looking at Fournier’s statistics, he averaged 17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and shot 45.7% from the field. He also connected on 41.3% of his shots from three-point range and is a career 80% shooter from the free-throw line.

Right off the bat, there is a tremendous difference and assists between Fournier and Bullock, and the French native also got to the free-throw line about three times as much as a former Knick.

The statistics start to lean heavily in favor of Evan when looking at field goals made unassisted. For example, last season, Fournier averaged 37.2% of his points on unassisted shots, while Bullock sat at 6.5%. This essentially details Fournier’s ability to creating his own opportunities while Bullock feasts off of other’s hard work and being in the right place at the right time.

97.5% of Bullock’s three-point field goals were on assists, while Fournier landed at 78.6%, a significant difference that tells a story between the two players. Fournier posted 21.4% on three-point field goals unassisted, while Bullock finished at 2.5%. Defensively, Fournier is more efficient stealing the ball, averaging 1.1 steals per game compared to Bullock’s 0.8. However, Bullock offers better perimeter defending with his length and athleticism whereas Fournier has been susceptible to more athletic shooting guards in the past. With an extra inch of height, Evan does have slightly better-blocking percentages and totals over Bullock, but both are rather irrelevant in the category.

Both averaged about 30 minutes per game on the floor, but Fournier contributed seven more points, justifying a more significant contract. While the Knicks might’ve overpaid a bit for his services, there is no question he is a better player and will provide an upgrade at the shooting guard/small forward position.

Grading the Knicks’ NBA 2K22 Ratings: Are they accurate?

knicks

With the release of NBA 2K22 last Friday, we finally have our first look at the 2021-22 New York Knicks roster in 2K. This also means that Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes are playable for the first time ever. Let’s dive into these ratings and see if 2K got it right.

The Ratings

Julius Randle, 87

Can’t really complain about this one. Coming off the best season of his career where he won Most Improved Player(MIP), Randle has earned his place among the top ratings in the Eastern Conference. He should probably be at an 88 or an 89, but his performance in last year’s playoffs definitely played a factor in this year’s rating.

Grade: B

RJ Barrett, 83

This one was really surprising. Not because of how he isn’t higher, but because 2K finally decided to show RJ some respect. 83 is honestly a really great jumping-off point this upcoming season for the 21-year-old. The rating isn’t too low or too high, it’s perfect.

Grade: A

Kemba Walker, 83

Unsurprisingly, this is the lowest rating Walker has had since NBA 2K16. The 5-time All-Star had one of the worst seasons of his career last year and looks to bounce back on his hometown team. His dynamic scoring and playmaking abilities could transform the Knicks’ offense, leading to a ratings boost down the line. However, whether it be from his knee issues or just a regression of his skills, there is also a chance 83 isn’t the lowest we see his rating throughout the year.

Grade: A-

Derrick Rose, 83

After a terrific playoff series against the Hawks last season, D-Rose earned this 83 rating. Although he’s tied for the 2nd highest rating on the team, the former MVP will be coming off the bench this season. Look for him to make a real run at 6th Man of the Year and for this rating to stay pretty much the same all season.

Grade: A

Mitchell Robinson, 80

There’s no question about it: When the 7’0 Robinson is healthy, there are not many other players in the league who can match his level of athleticism and energy. However, he’s coming off multiple injuries, the latter of which saw him miss the final 26 games of the regular season, including the series against the Hawks. If he’s able to stay healthy, there’s little-to-no chance that this rating stays the same. For now, it does make sense after not playing half of last season.

Grade: B+

Evan Fournier, 79

This is the first one that’s way off. 2k has had a tendency in the past to underrate guards/wings that can score in a multitude of ways. Any guard they perceive to not be able to defend well and not have playmaking abilities will have a hard time getting a rating over 80, especially if they play for the Knicks. This one just doesn’t make sense, though. It could be due to the fact that the devs may have been taking his stats with Boston into account too much. Before his trade to the Celtics, Fournier was putting up almost 20 PPG in only 30 minutes per game. Fournier is at least an 82, maybe even an 83. The intangibles he brings on offense, including his shooting and finishing skills, are better than any other 79 in the game. This rating isn’t accurate at all.

Grade: F

Immanuel Quickley, 78

As one of the biggest steals in the 2020 NBA Draft, Quickley improved his rating from a 71 last year all the way up to a 79 by the end of the year. This is why this rating doesn’t really do it for me. To drop down a point after an entire offseason doesn’t make much sense. We’ll see how it unfolds for the second year from Kentucky, but there’s little doubt that he improves enough to get this rating over 80 by the playoffs.

Side note, Quickley is REALLY good at NBA2K.

Grade: C

Nerlens Noel, 78

As the defensive anchor of the Knicks throughout the final stretch of last season that culminated in the team making the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, Noel proved that he wasn’t your average backup center. Defensively, Noel is an incredibly reliable option off the bench. However, his offensive woes will always hamper any rating he’ll ever get from 2K.

Grade: A-

Obi Toppin, 76

If it weren’t for the competency and confidence shown by Obi Toppin at the end of the season last year, there’s a chance he’s nowhere near the 76 that he finds himself right now. The potential is clearly there, but will he find the ability to become more offensively dynamic? Only time will tell. But until we see him take a big leap, the rating he currently holds will stay the same.

The Rest:

Taj Gibson, 76

Kevin Knox, 72

Quentin Grimes, 71

Luca Vildoza, 71

Dwayne Bacon, 71

Miles McBride, 70

Overall, the Knicks have a team rating of 83, which is the highest rating they’ve had since NBA 2K14.

Knicks reunion among Carmelo Anthony’s options during free agency

New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

After the Portland Trail Blazers moved on from him, Carmelo Anthony considered a reunion with the New York Knicks.

In Chris Hayne’s podcast on Monday, Anthony revealed that moving back to New York was among his options in the free agency before the Los Angeles Lakers offer came along.

“It was (hard) because I had just moved and bought a house in New York, Anthony said. “It was unexpected. My son starts school (today) in New York. So it was like, I’m here, I’m home. I never expected the Lakers to call.”

While Anthony said he’s been spending summertime in Los Angeles for more than a decade now, moving his family there never crossed his mind.

Anthony, a Brooklyn native, spent some of his prime years with the Knicks and led the team to the playoffs in 2013.

The Lakers were the Knicks’ rivals during their two championship runs in the 70s. The spotlights of Broadway and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood made them the two biggest markets in the NBA.

“I don’t know if I was ready to do that because that’s a big shift. When you wear the purple and gold, that’s different. Even in New York, when you wear the blue and orange, that’s blood. That runs deep. It’s the same way as the purple and gold. It’s just at different sides of the country,” Anthony said.

Anthony said he was in constant communication with Portland’s stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He was waiting for the Trail Blazers’ call that never came. So he thought he’d move back to the east coast.

“I made [Portland] almost like a home for me. Within two years, I felt like I was a part of that community,” Anthony said. “New York was always there. Coming back to New York was always a story. I’ve always told my son when he goes to high school, I’ll be right there with you. The New York thing made sense.”

Anthony would have added more firepower to the Knicks’ bench that already has Derrick Rose and the pair of electrifying sophomores Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.

Aside from the Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans also showed interest.

“I didn’t really get a chance to really converse with Philly, but there was interest there,” Anthony said.

He then revealed that Philadelphia’s stars Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris reached out to him, but he never had the chance to talk to them as the Lakers scooped him up before the Sixers did.

The opportunity to chase a ring with his good friend LeBron James and Anthony Davis was too good to pass up, but it was never an easy decision.

“Having a great chance to win [was what made me decide to join the Lakers]. It took me some days to really like sit down and kind of break it down and really dig deep into making that decision,” Anthony said.

“To most people, it probably would have been an easy decision to make. But to me, it wasn’t. I really have to align a lot of things and put things in order for things to work out, for me to feel comfortable to be away from my family for another year and the kids not being there. People don’t understand that part. That’s the hardest part. The basketball (part) is easy.”

Anthony was linked to the Knicks when his former agent Leon Rose became the team’s president. But the former Knicks star said the interest wasn’t mutual.

“At this point, it wasn’t really a lot [of consideration],’’ Anthony said in the summer of 2020. “The Knicks were making moves and were trying to figure out the direction they wanted to go in. They weren’t done making moves. I’m sure they have a plan. I don’t think me coming in and trying to mess their plan up was good for either party.”

“They are rebuilding and figuring out what’s in their near future. It was me personally wanting to be part of a situation I was already comfortable with. I just finished playing with these guys two, three months ago. I felt it was the right fit at this point of time where I’m at right now this particular year.’’

Then the Knicks made a surprising run to the playoffs and have positioned themselves to make another serious run this season with the addition of four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.

What a difference a year makes.

The Knicks suddenly became an attractive destination to Anthony again until Hollywood pulled him away from home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

WATCH: Knicks’ Evan Fournier hilariously rides NYC Subway

evan fournier, knicks

The New York Knicks signed Evan Fournier to a four-year, $73 million deal this off-season. The deal includes an out after the 2023-24 season, in which he would count $19 million against the cap. However, he will replace former shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock as the team’s primary spot shooter. However, Fournier brings another element to the roster, a player who can create opportunities for himself and others, which will take pressure off players like Julius Randle.

After signing a luxurious contract, Fournier has spent his time in New York riding the subway system and enjoying the sights of the Big Apple. Hilariously, he enjoyed some live music during his commute Monday morning.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the sights and sounds of the MTA, you know this is a frequent occurrence for subway riders. Fournier, who clearly wants to experience a sense of normalcy living in New York City, is seen shaking his head as the band plays throughout the car.

This is one of those classic New York moments with a player coming from Boston enjoying a change in scenery in a world that has been turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the video is quite wholesome, has plenty of celebrities use the subway to get around in the city, flying under the radar and going unnoticed in a city of millions.

Why Knicks’ Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett are an underrated duo

new york knicks, rj barrett

Adding talent this off-season was a priority for the New York Knicks, especially with a ton of cap space to spare and utilize. Of course, they would’ve preferred to land a big name with championship-caliber play, but instead, they added several players who can contribute toward a deep postseason run over a longer period.

Acquiring Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker injects talent into two positions that were considered weaknesses last season. While Reggie Bullock, who spent the last two years with the Knicks, played valiantly, averaging 10.9 points and shooting 41% from three-point range, Fournier offers a massive upgrade.

Not only is the French-born player capable of creating shots for himself, but he’s also a better three-point shooter, averaging 41.3% last season over 6.7 attempts per game. Bullock only attempted 3.8 shots per game from distance, showcasing the difference in scoring production.

Fournier finished last season with 17.1 points on average, 3.4 assists, and had a 56.5 effective field-goal percentage. He is far and away a better offensive player and even contributes more defensively. He will take significant pressure off power forward Julius Randle, as defenders simply can’t crowd the interior and force the Knicks to win with their shooting.

However, the pairing of Fournier and third-year player RJ Barrett could be something special. One of the most important aspects of sports is communication, and that assessment doesn’t differ in the NBA. Both Fournier and Barrett speak French, allowing them to communicate in a different language, which could give them a slight advantage over their competition, who can’t intercept information. While some might consider this a non-factor, playing off one another and creating shots will be a focal point for the Knicks, which will give them another element offensively.

Barrett, who had his best season to date during the 2020-21 season, averaging 17.6 points, 3.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field, is looking to take another step forward this upcoming season. His three-point percentage increased to 40%, attempting 4.3 shots per game. All together, Barrett and Fournier averaged a combined 34.8 points per game.

The primary goal for both players is to improve their shots selection and creation for their teammates. Last season, Fournier posted a 37.2% rate for field goals made unassisted. He is not a traditional spot-up shooter like Reggie Bullock, which offers benefits to a team that needs to draw attention away from their best player in Randle.

Just the slightest advantage in communicating in a different language can be beneficial, which will likely improve the chemistry between RJ and Evan. Another interesting point to make is at Fournier’s assist rate has consistently improved throughout his career, and Barrett saw his average increase from 2.6 to 3.0 last season. If they can continue to improve in that category, they have the potential to be a fantastic scoring duo.

How Kemba Walker can help take the Knicks’ offense to the next level

knicks, kemba walker

This offseason, the Knicks went out and signed 4-time All-Star Kemba Walker, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was against this move. Getting such a high-volume scorer for just $9 million per year couldn’t possibly go wrong, right? In hindsight, yes. However, as the starting point guard the Knicks so desperately needed, there is added pressure for Walker to perform well. Coupled in with his recurring knee issues, and there’s real concern that Walker could hamper the play of the hard-nosed Knicks.

Will His Knee Continue to Affect Him?

Despite being the lowest-risk signing the Knicks made all offseason, Kemba Walker has the most boom or bust potential on the roster. The reason for this is due to the fact that no one truly knows how Walker’s knee will continue to hold up. According to him, there’s little reason to worry, as he has continued to downplay the seriousness of his injury:

“I was feeling pretty good. I just had a little hiccup in the playoffs, which sucked obviously. Nobody likes to be injured, especially at that moment. But I felt pretty good all year, to be honest.”

Kemba Walker via Forbes

If his two seasons in Boston are any indication as to how the knee will impact him in New York, we could reasonably see more regression in the 31-year-old’s play. In these past two years, he saw consecutive decreases in his FG % and points per game, the latter by over 5 points from 2018-19 to 2019-20. With the Celtics, his injury problems effectively relegated him from the status of a bonafide star to simply an offensive threat. This, combined with the large contract Walker had, lowered his value so much that the Celtics needed to additionally send a first and second-rounder to Oklahoma City to offload him.

Now, no one’s saying that the Knicks need Walker to return to his Charlotte form to be successful. However, if they plan on making a deep playoff run in a much-improved Eastern Conference, he will need to be more efficient than he ever was on the Celtics. He won’t have to go out and score 20+ every night, but he will have to covert a higher percentage of his shots.

Will the Knicks’ Depth Help Kemba?

There is one big difference between Walker’s situation last season and the one he finds himself in now. The Celtics lacked depth, whereas the Knicks may be one of the deepest teams in the league. Boston relied heavily on their stars and didn’t have many spark plugs that could pick up the scoring load. New York, on the other hand, could potentially have multiple 10+ PPG scorers off the bench. There’s certainly hope that this could lead to a much more productive season from Walker with having to shoulder less of the scoring than he ever has.

It’s still without saying that Kemba will be the key piece to this Knicks team. They wanted their replacement for the disastrous Elfrid Payton era, and they got it for a very low price. Last year’s team had it all besides consistent scoring outside of Julius Randle. Now, with the additions of Walker and Evan Fournier, they finally have enough players who can create their own offense. Depending on how each player fits in with this team, this team can be really good.

How Good Can the Knicks Be?

If Kemba is able to somehow return to what he was before his injury, this could be the best Knicks team we’ve seen since the 1990s. Yes, even better than the 2012-13 team. A healthy Kemba along with RJ Barrett, Fournier, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson backed by a solid bench could lead to the franchise’s first 2nd round appearance since that aforementioned Carmelo Anthony-led squad.

The possibilities are boundless, and the expectations are high but not too high, so this season could turn out to be another very fun one for the New York Knicks.

Despite what happens this season, the Knicks aren’t risking much by putting all this trust in Walker. The positive behind all of this is that no matter what happens, the Knicks are not bound to him long-term. He’s only under contract for 2 years and a reasonable amount of money. If this doesn’t work out, the future of the team will still be perfectly intact. This is certainly something to be relieved about going forward if you’re a Knicks fan.

Grading the New York Knicks free agent acquisitions

New York Knicks, NYK

The New York Knicks spent an exorbitant amount of money this off-season to solve multiple positions of weakness. Having secured the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference last season, the team did more than enough to increase their odds of placing even better during the 2021-22 season.

Their free-agent acquisitions will play a big part in taking a step forward this upcoming year, including the retention of three familiar faces that were preparing to hit the market.

Grading the New York Knicks free agent signings:

1.) C: Nerlens Noel

With Mitchell Robinson playing in just 31 games last season, Nerlens Noel was forced into a more significant role. Averaging 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and shooting 61.4% from the field, Noel had one of his best years to date. However, his biggest impact came on defense, where he blocked 2.2 shots per contest and stole the ball 1.1 times on average. He was a maestro in the paint, meeting players at the rim to reject shots.

While Noel’s stats don’t stand out, a lot of his value doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. The Knicks seemingly overspent a bit on his retention, extending him on a three-year, $27.7 million deal. However, it is essentially a two-year contract with the third year not guaranteed. Paying him nearly $10 million is quite a lofty amount for a backup center, but the value he provides cannot go unnoticed.

Grade: B-

2.) PG: Derrick Rose

The very moment the Knicks acquired Derrick Rose from the Detroit Pistons at the deadline, the team took a massive step forward. It is clear that Rose is more than capable of being a starting point guard in the NBA, but age has certainly taken its toll on his stamina. With Elfred Payton offering little to nothing during the postseason, Rose was forced to play more minutes, picking up small injuries that impacted his production and efficiency.

Nonetheless, he averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 assists, and shot a career-high 41% from three with the Knicks last season over 35 games.

After realizing how much gas Rose has left in the tank, president Leon Rose elected to re-sign him on a three-year, $43.56 million deal. This is another contract that has no guarantees for the third season, and pairing ham with Kemba Walker should mitigate fatigue for the most part.

Grade: B+

3.) SG: Alec Burks

One of the Knicks’ top scorers last season was Alec Burks, who played an essential role off the bench. Serving as a shooting guard and small forward, the former first-round pick from 2011 averaged 12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and shot 42% from the field. He also hit on 41.5% of his shots from three, representing another high percentage shooter who curates immediate offense when called upon.

Burks isn’t the most stout defender, but his ability to play multiple positions and rotate in different combinations was enough to convince the front office to keep him on a three-year, $30 million deal. Burks’s contract also has an out after the second season, as the Knicks eye a potential big-name free agent with the opening of more salary space.

Grade: B

4.) SG/SF: Evan Fournier

One of the Knicks’ more lucrative free-agent acquisitions was Evan Fournier, formerly of the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic. Replacing Reggie Bullock as the team’s primary shooting guard, Fournier averaged 17.1 points last season over 30 minutes per game. Attempting 6.7 3-PT shots per game, he hit on 41.3%, a solid clip. The difference between Fournier and Bullock is that the former is able to create shots for himself, which should take pressure off power forward Julius Randle, who also signed an extension this off-season.

The Knicks landed Fournier on a four-year, $73 million deal. The team has an out after the third season, giving them a bit of flexibility down the road.

Grade: B

5.) PG: Kemba Walker

One of the biggest surprises of the off-season was the signing of Kemba Walker. Having landed him on a two-year, $17.9 million deal, the Knicks couldn’t imagine in their wildest dreams he would be available at such a great price point. Having struggled to stay healthy last season with a degenerative knee issue, Walker was only able to play in 43 games.

After the All-Star break, his statistics skyrocketed, but the injury lingered and eventually forced him to miss more time. At 30 years old, Walker was most recently an All-Star in 2020.

The veteran point guard averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and shot 42% from the field last year. Finding an efficient way for Walker and Randle to play cohesively will be a challenge for New York but can’t be any worse than Payton running around aimlessly like a chicken with its head cut off.

As stated above, the duo of Rose and Walker should be great for limiting minutes and keeping both healthy for a full 82 game season.

Grade: A

6.) Taj Gibson

Gibson’s role on this team falls into two categories, extra reserve, and leadership. Gibson is an all-effort type of player who contributed valiantly during the postseason after Noel picked up an ankle injury. His value as an offensive weapon is next to none, but Taj plays relentless defense and sets the tone for the rest of the team. He signed a two-year, $10.1 million deal with the Knicks, but the 2nd year is non-guaranteed.

Grade: B-

Knicks’ Evan Fournier freaks out over hilarious EA Mobile player representation

evan fournier, knicks

The New York Knicks made it a priority to land shooting guard Evan Fournier this off-season on a fresh contract. Signing him to a four-year, $73 million deal, the former first-round pick is looking to make an impact with the Knicks this upcoming season and beyond. With nine years of experience in the NBA, Fournier is a more than capable player, elevating the roster above the value that Reggie bullock provided last season.

While Bullock certainly offered value as a catch and shoot specialist, Fournier is capable of creating shots for himself, which adds another element to the offense, taking pressure off Julius Randle at power forward.

Last season, Fournier average 17.1 points, 3.4 assist and shot nearly 46% from the field. He connected on 41.3% of his shots from three-point range, averaging 6.7 attempts per game. Posting an effective field goal percentage of 56.5%, Fournier is simply a better player than Bullock and will offer the team far more offensive competency with similar defensive prowess.

However, while fans are excited about his impact, Fournier is already a favorite among the base. His social media presence has already elevated fans who are excited about the 2021-22 season. Asking to take part in several interviews with Knicks podcasts, Fournier also dropped a hilarious tweet regarding his visual appearance in EA’s mobile basketball game.

It is actually quite insane that EA managed to depict Fournier in such a ridiculous way. Just look at his eyes, they look like they are staring into your soul. And what is with his hair? It looks nothing like his actual style. Hopefully, EA learned a lesson from this encounter with Fournier — do better!

Julius Randle is excited to play with new Knicks dynamic backcourt

Opposing teams will now be wary of loading up on New York Knicks‘ All-Star Julius Randle next season with the arrival of the four-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and Frenchman shooter Evan Fournier.

Walker and Fournier, formally introduced as the newest Knicks Tuesday, are viewed as much-needed offensive upgrades to Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock.

“We’re going to be really good,” Walker said. “My ability to get in the lane. Hopefully, I can draw multiple defenders and just get rid of the basketball. Trusting my teammates. I know this guy [Evan] right here is going to light it up. For sure he’s going to shoot the crap out of the ball. We got a bunch of young guys who we just drafted who are really, really good, who I’ve been really impressed with watching summer league. And some of the other guys who have been here, the guys from last season. Me and Evan plan on coming here, bringing some leadership and just adding on to what they already got going.”

The Knicks’ new backcourt is expected to complement and space the floor for Randle, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson in the starting unit.

It was a solid offseason for the Knicks as they were able to upgrade and still maintain their bench depth with the re-signing of veterans Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and Taj Gibson, who all played vital roles in their surprising playoff run last season. Then there’s the pair of Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, looking to improve on their sophomore year. Their rookies — Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, and Jericho Sims — have shown plenty of promise in the NBA Summer League that they could be rotational players in their first year.

Their suddenly new-found depth is a welcome problem for two-time NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau.

Randle, whom the Knicks locked up for four more years via a $117-million extension, remains the key cog of the team. All the Knicks’ offseason moves were geared toward easing up the heavy load he carried last season as their offense went down with him when the Atlanta Hawks zeroed in on him in the playoffs.

“We brought back some key guys but you know, Leon (Rose) and Wes (William) and Scott (Perry), the guys did a great job of just making us a more versatile team, putting more shooting on the floor and guys that can create and get down shots as well. I’m just excited,” Randle said on The Jump, a few hours after the team’s introductory press conference for his new teammates, Walker and Fournier.

“It seems like these guys — just by talking to them, playing against them — will fit into our culture and will work out really well. So, that’s obviously a plus. I just think [the offseason moves] just make us a lot more dynamic.”

The Knicks’ offense will be more dynamic with Fournier, a better shot creator than Bullock, and Walker, who is miles ahead, a better playmaker and shotmaker than Payton.

It will also help that Walker and Fournier are coming in with an already established chemistry, having played together in the second half of last season with the Boston Celtics. What makes their addition more promising is their willingness to embrace reduced roles in Boston, which they are willing to do again in New York, judging from their introductory presser.

“It’s going to be fine,” Walker said. “Me and Evan, we are two very, very unselfish guys. We’re just going to get the ball moving and find the right shot, play some defense, try to get some stops. I think we’re going to jell super well. I’m super easy to get along with. So is Evan. So it’s going to be fine.”

Randle couldn’t be more pleased when he heard Walker talk about unselfishness. That trait has what pushed the less-heralded Knicks team to overachieve last season.

“Yeah, absolutely! I’m right there with him,” he told The Jump after listening to Walker’s interview. “I think that was the important thing about our team last year was everybody was unselfish. At the end of the day, all it matter was our team was winning. And just that mentality right there says it all. Those guys are, obviously, great players. They’re gonna bring a lot to the table for our team. But at the end of the day, everything is about winning. And I feel like that’s their mindset so it’s gonna be fun.”

Fournier has built a reputation as one of the most hardworking players in the league, so much so that his cerebral approach to the game has been underrated. The newly-minted Olympic silver medalist has a methodical approach to building chemistry with his new team.

“Well, first of all, I think we need to learn each other,” Fournier said. “What guys do best, what they enjoy, where they are efficient on the court, and then after that, it’s just playing free. Drive and kick, just making the right play, moving the ball, playing good basketball. It sounds simple, but at the end of the day you just have to be willing to do it.”

The willingness and togetherness of the Knicks team, last season under defensive guru Thibodeau, were the biggest draws for Fournier to choose New York. It was the cherry on top of his long desire to play at his favorite arena, the Madison Square Garden, in front of the loudest fans in the NBA for 41 games every year.

“I’m like that, too! I play for coach Steve Clifford for three years. In a lot of ways, [he and Thibodeau] are very similar. I know I will gonna enjoy working for him. And it’s New York, it’s the Madison [Suqare Garden]. The team is getting better and better. It was just a great opportunity. You probably don’t know that but the French press knows, I’ve been saying for years that I’ve always wanted to play for the Knicks. Now, it became a reality,” Fournier said.

The dream offseason, relative to what the dry free-agent market offered, is now officially over. The reality now sets in for the Knicks.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Randle said. “I don’t want to judge anything until we get on the court. But I have all the faith and confidence that Thibs — I know he’ll put us into the best position on the floor and bring out the best in us as a team. We’ll be fine.”

Fine will be an understatement if everything clicks for the Knicks.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo