This week, we heard reports that teams have been calling about Immanuel Quickley. Allegedly, the New York Knicks front office would want a first-round pick in a deal for the effervescent third-year guard.
This comes within days of a Fred Katz article in the Athletic praising the young, springy guard who’s been in shooting funk for most of this young season, but who has learned to rebound like Russell Westbrook. (Paywalled) About Quickley, our man Katz wrote, “His 7.0 rebounds per 36 minutes are second-best among all non-big men in the NBA. Only the 6-foot-7 Luka Dončić averages more.”
Color me impressed. I’m not crazy about parting with Quickley, but the Knicks are overstocked on wings and I opined that he might be better off elsewhere back in September.
Another player who I would expect to come up in trade talks Mitchell Robinson. He’s been MIA for half the season, and the Knicks are feeling it. This year, the team is losing the battle for the boards, grabbing 831 rebounds to their opponent’s 843.
Things aren’t all doomy and gloomy in the frontcourt. According to Teamrankings.com, the Knicks are the third-best team for points in the paint with a 55.7, and they rank sixth for offensive rebounds, clearing 12.4 per game as a unit. Credit much of that productivity to last summer’s acquisition, center Isaiah Hartenstein. The Big Machine from Eugene has gobbled up 58 O-boards so far, which rates him fifth in the league for both total and offensive rebound percentage (14.4%).
Plus, now we learn that Hartenstein has been playing hurt.
Today, Stefan Bondy reported that Hartenstein brought an inflamed Achilles into the season and has been limited by it thus far. You wouldn’t guess it by the numbers, perhaps, but he has been a step slow on both ends of the floor.
Despite the soreness, and although a second-stringer, Hartenstein has played twice as many minutes as Mitchell Robinson. The discrepancy in time is partly due to health, with Robinson missing eight games due to a sprained knee (and he didn’t appear to be fully recovered in his last two games back, either). Mitch has also missed significant floor time due to foul trouble, a tendency that has bedeviled him throughout his young career. Of late, he’s averaging 5.6 fouls per 36 minutes. If he can’t stay healthy or out of foul trouble, that $60 million contract might start looking less appealing. It also might make him the odd man out.
Robinson and Hart share the same defensive rating (110). While not as potent a blockmeister as Mitch, Isaiah still averages 1.2 a game and rates tenth league-wide with a 4.6% block percentage. Not shabby. Thus far, his 2-year, $16M contract seems the more reasonable of the two.
An added wrinkle to the situation is that Jericho Sims refuses to stay on the bench. In 14.5 minutes per game, the third-string sophomore is netting five boards and a block per game. Per 36 minutes, he is the team’s top rebounder, with 12.4 boards and 6.7 of them on the offensive end. To be fair, he’s a shade behind Robinson with 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes. He’s forgiven for being a sophomore who saw limited action last year. He needs time to develop, but so far, he sure looks like a rotational player, not a bench scrub.
Given the productivity of Hartenstein and Sims, and the unpredictability of Mitchell’s availability, one would expect the Knicks to be open to trade proposals for the big Cajun.
According to NBA.com stats, the Knicks are 23rd for defensive and net ratings. Not great. There’s reason to expect their defense will improve going forward with a line-up replacement of Quentin Grimes (a good defender) and Cam Reddish (a pretty good defender when he’s healthy) for Evan Fournier (no bueno).
Fournier has had a disappointing season, but he isn’t alone. Other players are struggling, including RJ Barrett, who has been a nightmare through the first 18 games. He ranks 8th in the league for field goals missed and has shot a jaw-dropping 27% from three on a volume of 5.5 attempts per game. Yuck. He’s also had his career-worst defensive rating of 117.
Then there’s Julius Randle (hold your groans), who remains the team leader for rebounds with 6.4 per game and is knotted with Jalen Brunson for a team-best 20.8 points per game. But he’s also sixth in the league for both turnovers (55) and personal fouls (61). As always with Lord Julius, he giveth and taketh. We’ve been told that recently he called for a team meeting in which he led the charge for accountability, but then he had pissy moments in their recent win over the Thunder and left the court before the final buzzer sounded. For every encouraging sign that Randle might be rebounding from last year’s trainwreck season, there’s a dumb play or a shoulder-jerk at a teammate that reminds us: Same old Julius.
Fournier was the first to suffer the consequences for his poor play. He’s been benched since November 15, with head coach Tom Thibodeau choosing to work in Quentin Grimes and Deuce McBride instead. All signs point to Fournier being moved soon, as John Hollinger wrote at the Athletic this week. “In Fournier’s case, it’s hard to say a 260-minute sample of subpar shooting really translates into a definitive case that he’s washed at 30. He’s perhaps stretched as a starter at this point and makes $37 million over the next two years (there’s also a team option in 2024-25), so he’s not the easiest player to move in a trade. Nonetheless, there are teams short of bench shooting and playmaking that he’d pretty clearly help.” (Paywalled)
Moving Fournier makes sense. That would be much easier to swallow than shipping off Quickley. Mitchell Robinson, though—that’s a tough one. When he’s playing, he’s one of the league’s best centers, and he’s a colorful character, which wins emotional points. I love watching him swing his octopus arms around. Yet, with his inability to stay on the court, and since the Knicks are competently covered with Hartenstein and Sims, don’t be alarmed if you see Shams tweet his name soon.