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The risks and potential rewards of replacing Reggie Bullock with Evan Fournier

Reggie will be missed, no question.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Reggie Bullock was never going to be a star for the Knicks, nor was he advertised to be. In the seven seasons prior to 2020-21, he averaged 6.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 1.1 apg on 43% from the field and 38.5% from three. But Bullock had one of his best seasons for the surprising 2020-21 club, averaging just under 11 ppg, and a career-high 3.4 rpg while having his second and third-highest field-goal and three-point percentages of his career, respectively.

For much of the campaign, teammates and coaches alike heralded Bullock as the unsung hero of the team. His workhorse mentality was a perfect match for Thibodeau’s coaching style, and he was one of the few outside threats that the Knicks could deploy. The veteran guard also provided a calming and resilient presence on a team that had multiple young players.

Bullock had several key moments throughout the season, like this huge three to send the game to OT where the Knicks would take home the win to extend their win streak to six.

And the huge steal against his eventual replacement to secure a win against the Magic.

That being said, there is no doubt that Evan Fournier is a big upgrade individually. Throughout his 9 year NBA career, Fournier has averaged 14.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg and 2.7 apg while shooting 45% from the field and 37.9% from 3. He isn’t quite the defender Bullock is, but is better than the former Knick at every other aspect of the game.

The biggest difference is probably in how they get their shots. 6.1 of Bullock’s 8.6 attempts were three-pointers last season, most of which were assisted. Fournier took 5.9 of his 10.8 shots from three, and while many of those were spot-up shots, he shot a ridiculous 40.3% on pull-up threes. Fournier has also showcased the ability to get to the rim, draw fouls and make plays for others at times, something Bullock very rarely did. This has the potential to take some pressure off of Julius Randle, Kemba Walker and RJ Barrett.

As you can see below, Fournier was very good at spotting up but also at relocating off a give-and-go or a pump fake. Also, his ability to cut and finish around the rim as well as handle the ball in the pick-and-roll should give Thibodeau and the Knicks some interesting options on offense.

While Fournier is the superior individual talent, basketball is a game of fit and matchups, and the Knicks may need some time for everyone to relearn their roles and how to best play off each other. Bullock was a spot-up shooting specialist, and that is what he focused on. He almost never tried to create off the dribble, and when he did, the results weren’t pretty. Fournier can definitely play off the ball, but he also needs opportunities to find his rhythm and make plays for himself and others with the ball in his hands as well.

In a vacuum, this is exactly what the Knicks were missing last year. The offense often got messy and went through droughts when Julius Randle was having an off night or wasn’t in the game. But the Knicks now have Kemba Walker, who is definitely better with the ball in his hands, as well as Randle, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley, who all prefer to operate with the ball. Bringing in two more ball handlers could also take away opportunities from RJ Barrett. RJ took a big step forward last year in becoming a better shooter, but if he is to become the star that fans hope to see him become, he will have to become better with the ball in his hands. And he can only do that if he is given ample time and opportunity to do so.

However, if everyone synchronizes and gets the most out of each other, it could lead to a very interesting offense. Barrett and Fournier have proven to be very capable shooters and the team could run sets that involved multiple dribble handoffs and pin-downs to force the defense to either switch or give up open shots. With the multiple options in ball handlers and shooters, as well as the return of an explosive lob threat in Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks offense could be a lot more efficient and exciting.

This could still be a big “if.” Ideally, every player sacrifices a little, leading to a more efficient offense which can be carried by whichever player has the hot hand. But that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Most NBA good players want the offense to run on their terms. This can usually be solved with one thing: winning. So hopefully the Knicks do a whole lot of that next season.

Bullock and his defense, hustle, clutch factor and leadership will be missed. But the simple fact of the matter is that the Knicks finished the season ranked 23rd in the league in offensive efficiency. It was their offense that failed them in that first-round loss to Atlanta. That is why you bring in a guy like Evan Fournier. There is definitely reason to be excited about Fournier, his skillset, and how it could change the dynamic of this often stagnant offense.