NBA free agency: Projected lineup for Knicks with Kemba Walker

NBA free agency: Projected lineup for Knicks with Kemba Walker

Knicks

NBA free agency: Projected lineup for Knicks with Kemba Walker

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The New York Knicks made a splash with a playoff appearance this past season and have continued to make noise with an active offseason.

During his first year as head coach of the Knicks, head coach Tom Thibodeau got the most out of his players. Julius Randle took a huge step forward, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Meanwhile, Immanuel Quickley outperformed expectations and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second-Team.

The organization built on that success by re-signing Derrick Rose and Nerlens Noel. They have also managed to sign big names such as Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, who were actually teammates on the Boston Celtics in 2020-21.

Statistically speaking, Walker’s play was elevated quite a bit once Fournier joined the Celtics. Boston outscored opponents by an excellent 14.8 points per 100 possessions when Walker and Fournier were on the floor at the same time during regular-season action, per PBP Stats. Boston’s net rating (1.1) was much worse when Walker appeared without Fournier.

Meanwhile, Walker averaged 27.0 points per 36 minutes when he shared the court with Fournier. Compare that figure to the 22.5 points per 36 minutes in minutes he played without Fournier this past season.

The two players can add some value to the momentum that the Knicks had en route to the 2021 NBA Playoffs. especially if players like Quickley and RJ Barrett continue their development.

Point Guard

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

STARTER: Kemba Walker

DEPTH: Derrick Rose, Miles McBride

The Oklahoma City Thunder decided to buy out Kemba Walker, which means the New York native will return home to play at Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, according to USA TODAY’s Mark Medina, three-time All-Star guard Derrick Rose had interest from the Bulls, Heat, Pelicans and Wizards before he decided to return to New York. The decision makes sense as he has had significantly more success playing for Tom Thibodeau than he has with any other coach. Rose came off the bench and played in the second unit for most of last season and he could have a similar role next year. They also have Miles McBride, a rookie who is already an excellent defender and developing floor general.

Shooting Guard

Mary Altaffer-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

STARTER: RJ Barrett

DEPTH: Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes

New York enjoyed a ton of success with their young tandem of back-to-back first-round guards in RJ Barrett (21 years old) and Immanuel Quickley (22 years old). Both players are still very young, which means we shouldn’t be at all surprised if they get even better next season. Quentin Grimes, who will be a rookie next season, fits a similar profile to Quickley. He is a former top recruit who struggled as a freshman but eventually used his shooting to get back on track.

Small Forward

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger, Pool)

STARTER: Evan Fournier

DEPTH: Alec Burks, Kevin Knox

The biggest move of the offseason for New York was to sign Evan Fournier. Injuries prevented him from finding his groove this past season but the 28-year-old wing averaged at least 15.0 points per game in each of his final five seasons for the Orlando Magic. New York’s front office was also smart to re-sign Alec Burks, a sharpshooter who connected on 41.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in 2020-21.

Power Forward

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

STARTER: Julius Randle

DEPTH: Obi Toppin

What is there to say about Julius Randle that hasn’t already been said? Randle was an incredibly obvious choice for the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2021. He shined as a point forward for the Knicks, averaging a whopping 6.0 assists per game this past season. Meanwhile, New York also has 2020 collegiate player of the year Obi Toppin on their roster. Injuries slowed his rookie campaign but Toppin could be in store for an even better sophomore season.

Center

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

STARTER: Nerlens Noel

DEPTH: Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson

The hardest position to predict for the Knicks is the center because the future of Mitchell Robinson is a bit unclear. Robinson, who dealt with a fractured right foot this past season, is still on the roster. But even when he returns, so long as they do not trade him, New York could opt instead for Nerlens Noel as their starting big man. Noel re-signed with the Knicks to the tune of a $32 million deal over the next three seasons.

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