The NBA season has headed into the All-Star break and the New York Knicks look to be peaking. They’ve won their last three and six out of their last eight, including wins over the 76ers, Heat, Hawks, and Nets.
While Knicks fans are certainly excited for the team to get back on the court at the end of next week, we thought we’d take the intervening time and go through the roster to give each player a letter grade for their performance with a small explanation to support it.
We’ll start by looking at the bench players. Let’s see how each one has stacked up so far this season.
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Trevor Keels and DaQuan Jefferies
We can’t give either of these players a grade since they were elevated to the active roster on two-way contracts after the trade deadline and haven’t gotten a chance. Keels was averaging 14.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in the G League while shooting 37% from beyond the arc, while Jefferies was averaging 21.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and a whopping 2.1 steals. Would be interesting to see what the 25-year-old can do.
Rose has been completely phased out of the rotation. On the year, he’s averaging 5.8 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.5 rebounds per game while shooting just 39.4% from the field. His scoring efficiency and offensive rating are the worst currently on the active roster and his net rating of -2.9 is only better than one player, who we’ll get to later.
When on the court, his usage remained high (5th-highest on the team) and he actually continues to play at a pace that would fit this team, but his shooting has been brutal, with the second-worst true shooting percentage on the team. It’s hard to blame him for all of it since he’s been off the court so much, but he wasn’t providing a ton of value when he was playing earlier in the year either.
Fournier is averaging 6.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, and is in the middle of one of his worst shooting seasons ever, hitting just 35.1% from the field and 32.4% from deep. He also has an effective field goal percentage (EFG%) of 46% and the Knicks score 4.7 fewer points per possession when he’s on the court and turn the ball over 1.4% more. However, according to Cleaning the Glass, the team also allows 3.5 fewer points per possession on defense when Fournier plays and holds opponents to a 2.1% worse shooting percentage, so he’s been surprisingly average on that end of the court.
McBride appears to find himself out of the rotation now that Josh Hart is in town, which is a shame since the West Virginia product was starting to find his rhythm. On the season, he’s averaging just 3.4 points and 1.2 assists per game, but he’s the Knicks’ best defender by NBA.com defensive rating and FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR metric. In fact, the Knicks create 1.5% more turnovers and allow 6.7 fewer points per possession when he’s on the court; that’s the 93rd percentile in the entire NBA.
While McBride has the worst EFG% remaining on the team and the lowest Player Impact Estimate from NBA.com, the Knicks also stay relatively as productive on offense with him on the court as they do off. They score just 1.0 fewer points per possession and turn the ball over 0.5% less; however, the shooting nosedives with him on the court, which counteracts his tremendous defense a bit.
Obi Toppin is a hot-button issue in New York. Many fans believe in his talent but are frustrated by his lack of playing time. He’s averaging only 14.9 minutes per game this year and averaging 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. He has improved his shooting a bit this year, knowing down 35.1% from beyond the arc, but his 52% EFG% is still just 9th-best on the team and his offensive RAPTOR score is actually 4th-worst on the Knicks. In fact, the Knicks score 7.2 fewer points per possession when he’s on the court and have an EFG% that’s 3% worse.
He has been a solid defender so far this year, ranking as the team’s 3rd-best defender by NBA.com’s Defensive Rating but their 8th-best by RAPTOR. His rebounding rate is 6th-best on the team, and NBA.com ranks him 6th on the Knicks in Player Impact Estimate. He needs to diversify his offensive game a little bit, and the shooting growth isn’t as large as highlights make it seem, but he has been solid for the Knicks when given a chance.
I know that Sims is technically a starter now, but he’s likely to be out of the rotation when Robinson returns, so I’ll keep him here.
Sims is an exciting athlete who has been given a lot of minutes in the wake of Mitchell Robinson’s injury, but he really hasn’t produced. On the season, Sims is averaging 3.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game and has not brought much to the table offensively apart from his impressive dunking ability. He doesn’t really attempt any shots away from the basket and has a problem with turnovers, posting the highest turnover rate on the team at 15.2%.
His rebounding rate is 3rd-best on the team, but he has been a net negative in almost every other area. The Knicks score 6.8 fewer points per possession when he’s on the court (13th percentile), shooting 1.1% rose (38th percentile), turn the ball over 1.4% more (23rd percentile) allow 6.7 more points per possession (7th percentile), and allow teams to shoot 2.9% better (13th percentile). None of that is particularly confidence-inspiring.
We’ll end this section of the player grades with Josh Hart because he’s only played three games with the Knicks, so we don’t want to overreact. However, in those three games, he’s averaging 17 points. 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals. He has their highest offensive ranking NBA.com and their highest Player Impact Estimate. He’s their 5th-best defender, according to RAPTOR, and Cleaning the Glass says the Knicks are 42 wins better with Hart on the court.
Obviously, these types of stats can’t be taken seriously after just three games, but that three-game sample has been ridiculous. The Knicks are scoring 36.4 more points per possession with Hart on the court, shooting 10.5% better, and collecting offensive rebounds at a 21.6% better rate. While none of that is sustainable, his fit on the Knicks is tremendous, and his impact in these first three games is greater than anyone could have ever anticipated.