It hasn't been the start Knicks fans expected. Derrick Rose is out for a few weeks, Julius Randle isn't his All-Star self, and the Kemba/Fournier experiment has been so-so. However, it's always good to look at the building blocks of the future, and from a Knicks fan perspective, this team is something I am excited for, and the most excited I have been in quite some time.
I'm sure the Pelicans wish they drafted Ja Morant, but what about wishing they snagged the other Duke star back in the 2019 draft? Last night was a nice little reminder on how lucky the Knicks are to have drafted correctly.
RJ Barrett dropped 32 points last night, going 12-for-20 from the field, and hitting 6 of 8 at the free throw line. He shifted his approach and drove to the basket, and help elevated the Knicks to a victory to start the new year. For the season, he's averaging close to 16 points per game on 41% shooting. Fun fact, RJ Barrett is only 21 years old... the future is bright!
From one first round pick to another, Obi Toppin has taken strides in his sophomore season. Because of the health and safety protocols, Obi was forced to take on a bigger role and covered some minutes with Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and Nerlens Noel out. During that stretch, Toppin was averaging 19.4 points per 75 possessions, which was second highest on the team behind Randle. While Obi is on the floor, the Knicks are +11.4 points per 100 possessions compared to a -5.5 while he is not.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of young talent on this squad. Immanuel Quickly remains a solid option off the bench, with pure athleticism and shooting. The pair of rookie guards, Miles McBride and Quentin Grimes have earned their playing time and provide consistent production when on the floor. When Mitchell Robinson is healthy, he can be one of the dominant big mans in the league, dominating the rim and contributing the rebounding and blocking statistics.
If Julius Randle can ramp it back up, and reinforcements come, expect the Knicks to return to the playoffs yet again. New York Forever, baby!