The New York Knicks are less than 10 games into the 2022-23 season, but it’s already evident that changes need to be made. The offseason included a few key moves, but ultimately, it seems as if this year could be another long one for the Knicks. There have already been rumblings about firing Tom Thibodeau, which would help but wouldn’t fix everything. There’s also been talk about trading a couple of veterans, with Evan Fournier and Julius Randle’s names coming up the most.
Fans were impatiently waiting to learn that Fournier had been traded over the summer for a myriad of reasons. There were (and still are) concerns about a Jalen Brunson-Fournier backcourt and after watching Quentin Grimes play at Summer League, that solidified in the minds of fans that the 22-year-old deserves to start in his second season.
And here we are at the start of the season, and fans are understandably frustrated with Fournier’s performance thus far. He’s the Knicks’ best shooter, but that’s not saying a whole lot. He’s too inconsistent and on defense, he’s a liability.
Finally, in Friday night’s win over the Sixers, Thibodeau decided to see what Grimes looks like in the starting lineup. Grimes, who was out for the first part of the season with a sore left foot, played in only a few minutes before he was subbed out. However, the move showed that Thibs is no longer reluctant to try something different, and hopefully that continues.
That move helped to show that if the front office were to decide to trade a veteran sometime in the coming months, it would make far more sense for it to be Fournier over Randle.
Evan Fournier should be the Knicks’ likeliest player to be traded
Let’s be realistic here. It’s hard to envision the front office trading both Fournier and Randle, which is what many want. After all, they had the option to do so this past summer but didn’t. Instead, all that was left was to have faith that Randle would be able to embrace an off-ball role, and that was the case for the Knicks’ first few games of the season.
However, since then, Randle’s started to revert to his old ways. He’s starting to once again shoot at an inefficient rate and turn the ball over nearly as many times as he notches an assist. At this rate, it would make sense for Obi Toppin (who’s played well) to earn more playing time, but that’s something that Thibodeau has had a hard time coming to terms with.
But with New York down by 12 in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia, Thibodeau finally put Randle and Toppin on the floor together. With Mitchell Robinson out with a sore knee in the second half, and Joel Embiid not playing for the Sixers, it made sense to try out a smaller lineup. In the 10 minutes and 36 seconds that Randle and Toppin played together, the Knicks outscored the Sixers, 29-15. It was a move that helped New York win the game.
Playing those two together is something that Thibodeau should do more often, but doing so last night was circumstantial. It was another game where Randle was struggling, but Toppin played in only six minutes in the first half and didn’t re-enter the game in the second half until late in the third quarter. It was a fix that worked against a shorted Philadelphia squad.
That brings us back to the trade topic. Trading Randle would open up a starting spot for Toppin, but depending on what the Knicks would be able to get in return, that’d leave New York without a solid backup at the four. However, it seems as if the only way that Toppin is going to get more playing time is if Randle leaves. That’s the dilemma. The front office shouldn’t get rid of Randle unless they know that they can add a decent player to back up Obi.
That’s why as of right now, it makes more sense for the Knicks to trade Fournier because the team already has a logjam at his position. More time would be freed up for younger players like Grimes, Quickley, and McBride. That’s the direction that New York needs to go in.
If the Knicks are considering trading Fournier, it’ll be no easy task. The Los Angeles Lakers need shooters, but coming to an agreement on a deal would be far from simple. There’s always the chance that Fournier will turn into a productive sixth man for New York, but if that’s the route that the Knicks choose to take and he continues to negatively impact the team, trading him before the deadline should be inevitable.