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Knicks Media Roundup: Katz on Knicks trade objectives, Julius Randle’s less than Magic fourth quarter, Bleacher Report grades first half of season, Bondy on OG, video highlights

Julius Randle’s defensive struggles ignite fan frustration after Knicks’ loss.

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NBA: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Today at The Athletic, Fred Katz wrote about ($) Knicks trade deadline objectives, Quentin Grimes’ future, and New York’s need for a facilitator:

With nearly three weeks to go until the NBA trade deadline, the Knicks’ priorities are taking shape. The goal, according to league sources familiar with the organization’s thinking, is to add someone who could help the team today and also has a contract that would be attractive in a hypothetical trade for a star this upcoming summer. But acquiring a talented player takes giving up something good, too.

One name to watch is Quentin Grimes.

The New York Knicks are facing a challenge in initiating offense, particularly when Jalen Brunson is off the floor, and are hunting a ballhandler to improve matters. According to Katz, Grimes is actively being offered in trade discussions. That’s a shift from the team’s previous stance of holding onto him.

Fred says that the team is unwilling to trade unprotected first-round picks but is open to deals similar to last year’s Josh Hart trade, involving a protected first-rounder and a matching salary. He adds that finding a back-up center is now less of a priority compared to finding a facilitator.

Evan Fournier—on an expiring contract—is a trade asset that the team hopes to maximize before the February 8 trade deadline or in the summer. Leon Rose & Co. are cautious about Fournier’s team option for 2024-25 and would prefer to not be stuck with such a pricey player if a star trade does not occur in the summer.

As usual, good stuff from Katz!

Meanwhile, this piece at Fadeaway World addressed the frustration over Julius Randle’s lack of defense in Monday’s loss to the Magic.

In a game where the absence of Jalen Brunson required Randle to shoulder a heavier load, Julius put up 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, and shot 5-for-18 from the floor (28%).

The brightest spotlight of criticism fell directly on Julius in a crucial moment of the fourth quarter. With the Knicks trailing 90-89, Randle’s missed free throws and his lackadaisical defense allowed an offensive rebound and score that sealed the loss for the Knicks.

About the game, Julius admitted, “[The defense was] collapsing. I missed a lot of easy shots, too. Obviously [we’re] missing JB. He’s a big piece for us. It’s tough. But we had enough to win that game.”

This isn’t the first time Randle has shown such lapses. Statistically, Julius Randle is having a commendable season. He has averaged 24.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 40 games and seems destined to appear in his third All-Star game. Despite his positive numbers and accolades, his tendency to get lost in big moments continues to fuel questions about his leadership abilities.

It must be noted that Randle rolled his ankle while grabbing a first-quarter rebound. Having gone to the locker room, he missed the first six minutes of the second period while receiving treatment for the injury. The MSG broadcast reported that it was not the ankle that required surgery in the offseason.

If Julius was hurt, he should have taken the pine rather than soldiering through, because his inability to defend or shoot better than 28% hindered his team. Perhaps his—and Tom Thibodeau’s—concern was that the team would be too small without him. This again draws attention to the Knicks’ lack of a dependable power forward to cover when Randle is out. We hoped it would be Precious Achiuwa. So far, it ain’t. As a Knick, Precious has averaged 3.8 rebounds, and 3.3 points and talk about mental lapses—sheesh. Like clockwork, he will make an encouraging play and then foul, turn the ball over, or mishandle a pass. (Which is consistent with what our Raptors’ expert told us about him.)

Surely, Leon Rose will watch the trade market to see what big men are, or will become, available before the February deadline. Maybe it’s time to let Jericho Sims out of the doghouse to see what he’s learned. Sims made an appearance against the Blazers last week and has been almost entirely relegated to garbage time of late. Who knows? He might prove to be more reliable than Achiuwa.

In other news, Bleacher Report posted all of Miles McBride’s buckets in his career-high 20-point performance yesterday. (Congrats, Deuce!) Also, BR posted full highlights and every shot made by OG Anunoby versus Orlando. OG scored 17 points, four assists, and two rebounds, but did most of his best work in the first half. Anunoby has averaged 14.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in eight games since joining the Knicks.

The New York Post’s Stefan Bondy wrote an extensive piece about OG’s development, found here. His article highlights OG Anunoby’s defensive prowess, traces his career back to his college days at Indiana, and emphasizes Anunoby’s ability to guard stars across various positions, which provides the Knicks with a versatile defender. Anunoby’s physical strength, plus strategic training and film study, contribute to his defensive excellence. This quote stood out:

“He physically just mugs people,” a scout said. “The right way. Not like [Josh] Hart. Hart has bad feet. So Hart has to tackle you or put his shoulders on you to stop you from getting by you on the second dribble. … Hart is only like a B or B-plus defender [on the perimeter]. Anunoby is an A defender. He’s just bigger. He has the foot quickness to take the right angles. Play bigger guys, play smaller guys. He’s really good.”

Finally, Bleacher Report published their report card for the first half of the season. They awarded New York a B+.

In a nutshell, they commend the Anunoby trade as an improvement for the team, observing how RJ Barrett’s negative impact on the point differential during his tenure is counteracted by Anunoby’s upgrade. In particular, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle are complemented by Anunoby’s perimeter defense and catch-and-shoot skill. Mitchell Robinson (when healthy) and Isaiah Hartenstein provide dominance in the paint, and the Knicks have wing depth with Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, and Quentin Grimes.

In short, New York is now a better team. More specifically, it’s better equipped to hang with Eastern Conference contenders like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

With a 23-17 record, the Knicks have lost two of their last three games and face the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. Prayers are up that Brunson will be healthy for that tilt, the first of a back-to-back (the Wizards come in on Thursday). The usually jovial Josh Hart turned melancholy when addressing Jalen’s absence after the Magic game. We share your sentiments, Josh. Go Knicks.