The New York Knicks have a great chance to get back in the win column against a Cavaliers team that may look a little different.
The New York Knicks have dropped four straight games, putting a bump in the road – a road that was traveling pretty nice – on the early season. A 5-3 start was abruptly sidetracked after a 12-point loss to Oklahoma City, and the Knicks have since been unable to get back on track.
New York travels to Cleveland to face another 5-7 team in the Cavaliers on Friday. But this is a Cleveland club that is going through some changes.
It was reported on January 14 that superstar James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, a trade that involved four teams and a whole lot of players and picks. And while everyone was distracted by the Harden news, Cleveland snuck into the deal.
On paper, Cleveland should improve from this move. The Cavs had to part ways with two draft picks, a 2022 first-rounder, which was sent to Houston, and a 2024 second-round pick to Brooklyn. Cleveland also lost Dante Exum, a strong defensive bench player who struggled to get his footing this season, averaging just 3.8 points per game on 38.5% shooting from the field.
In return, Cleveland was sent two very intriguing players from Brooklyn. Jarrett Allen, a longtime Nets starter, was the main piece. He was averaging a career-best 11.2 points and 10.4 rebounds among others in his fourth year in the NBA.
Taurean Prince is also on his way to Cleveland and should mend the loss of Dante Exum, and add some additional bench points.
As the New York Knicks get ready to play Cleveland at 7:30 p.m tonight, the importance of this game has gone up a bit. On paper, Cleveland’s roster has improved. The Cavs may just be another team competing for one of those playoff spots. For New York, this would be a big opportunity to get back on track.
The biggest question mark heading into the contest is if Allen and Prince will even play. If they aren’t available, the Cavs will be shorthanded yet again. Cleveland currently has a laundry list of players who are injured, which includes starting guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, and former All-Star Kevin Love.
Andre Drummond is also probable, but according to Fear the Sword, he should be ready to play.
Assuming that is the case, the Knicks must take advantage of this banged up Cavs lineup. Other than a few injuries here and there, New York has been one of the rather healthy teams this season, with all things considered. Against Cleveland, the usual starters of Austin Rivers, Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson should all be good to go, giving the Knicks an edge up front.
But then there’s a second scenario. Should Allen and Prince play – after all, they landed in Cleveland on Thursday night – the Knicks could have their hands full.
If that’s the case, it’ll be a much tougher Cavs team to go up against, and especially score the ball against. Perhaps New York can take advantage of the fact that the new Cleveland players are being thrown into a different system,
Make no mistake, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince are two very respectable players. But if their first games in Cavalier uniforms comes against the Knicks, it’ll be up to Tom Thibodeau and his guys to apply pressure and rattle their little knowledge of Cavalier basketball.
Whatever the case is – if Allen and Prince play or don’t play – New York has a wonderful opportunity of getting a big win against a team it will most likely be competing against all season long in the playoff race. The Knicks already hold one win against the Cavs, so a 2-0 start would be big in the long run.