Knicks fans are surely on their high horse, and they have every right to be.

The Knicks finished the preseason last week with a crushing 119-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. The victory put the Knicks preseason record at 3-1.

“It’s preseason. Relax,” said the fan of the irrelevant team in New York City.

Yeah, it’s preseason. But after an incredibly trying year, in which the most valuable franchise in the sport with the largest fan base did not play in nine months, it feels nice.

After years of pleading to let the kids play, after years of missing out on a guard that could lead the team, it feels nice.

Do not let anyone rain on your parade, Knicks fans.

Immanuel Quickley, PG1?

Photo: Duane Burleson/AP

Surely, the most impressive player in the preseason was Knicks rookie guard Immanuel Quickley. The 6’3”, 190 lbs guard out of Kentucky was the 25th pick of last month’s draft, which CBS Sports Network said was a D+ grade, did not play in the Knicks’ first preseason game against the Pistons. But he played in the last three games, averaging 11 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.3 RPG in 21 MPG. 

Quickley found himself playing big minutes in the preseason’s penultimate game, in which the Knicks trailed by as much as 19 in the third quarter to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Quickley, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, and Kevin Knox played the final 7 minutes together and flipped the scoreboard to win the game 100-93.

In the preseason’s final game, with Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith, Jr., Elfrid Payton, Austin Rivers, and Alec Burks out, Quickley started and played 29 minutes. He finished with 22 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, and 5 steals on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 from three. Quickley, who finished 3rd in DI in free throw percentage at 92% last season, drained five of his seven free throws. The Knicks led the Cavs by as much as 49 in that game.

Rowan Alexander Barrett, Jr.

After being scrubbed from an All-Rookie Team, it seems as though RJ Barrett is ready to show the NBA they’ve awoken an animal. 

Coming off a rookie campaign where he averaged 14.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 2.6 APG on 40% shooting, Barrett started the 2020-21 campaign with a strong preseason. He averaged 17.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 2.0 APG in the four games and has been shooting efficiently from the field and with a much improved looking jumpshot.

It seems as though Barrett is ready to average 20 points a night. 

What About the Other Guards?

Now, here is why the Knicks are giving head coach Tom Thibodeau the big bucks. Quickley’s emergence may now create a logjam for the Knicks in the backcourt. 

Dennis Smith, Jr. continues to look to resuscitate his career. He looked decent in his minutes on the court. He had 7 steals in three games, including five in the penultimate game. He also made two three-pointers in that game early in the Knicks’ comeback.

Elfrid Payton’s game was frustrating, to say the least. Payton continues to try to feed the ball to Randle and gets out of the way. Payton continues to shoot from behind the arc, knowing he is a 29% shooter in his career from three. Payton may continue to be the starting point guard, but if he plays as he did in the preseason, Thibodeau will surely take him out of the rotation. Thibodeau isn’t a fool.

Reggie Bullock had a pedestrian preseason. He did have a 17-point performance in the final preseason game. It is what it is with Bullock, an average player who’ll feed off the energy. If the Knicks are playing well, he can add 15 points. If the Knicks aren’t playing well, he’ll add five points.

Alec Burks didn’t quite impress, but the 36% shooter from three will surely find time on the rotation. He is away from the Knicks at this time due to personal reasons. Austin Rivers and Frank Ntilikina did not play in the preseason as they nurse injuries.

Kevin Knox…?!?!

Entering his third year, Kevin Knox has averaged 9.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 1.0 APG on 37% from the field and 34% from the field.

In the first two preseason games against the Detroit Pistons, Knox put up 5 and 2 points. However, in the two games against the Cavaliers, he put up 16 and 20 points.

In the third preseason game, 12 of Knox’s 16 came in the fourth quarter! Knox shot 53% from behind the arc this preseason and turns into Larry Johnson when Quickly is on the court with him. Basketball-Reference has Knox projected to average 15 points per 36 minutes.

It’s been tough for Kevin Knox, but if he has turned the page, he’ll be lethal off the bench for the Knicks.

Mitchell Robinson

Entering his third year, he is also poised to make a huge jump. He had a good preseason, averaging 7.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG on 67% from the field. I am still sure he can do better than that.

But one thing Mitchell Robinson has not yet improved on is his fouling. He is forced to miss many minutes a game due to foul troubles. That was the biggest flaw in his rookie and sophomore season, and it seems as though he hasn’t improved on that. Mitchell Robinson can easily be a 10-10 every night, but his inability to stay on the floor can become concerning.

In the preseason’s penultimate game, Robinson missed a lot of the first half because he picked up three quick fouls. He finished the comeback win with five personal fouls.

In the final game of the preseason, he had zero fouls.

If Robinson can average four fouls a game during the season, I think he’ll get enough playing time to average a double-double.

It’s the best of times with Mitch; it’s the worst of times with Mitch.

Julius Randle or Obi Toppin?

The power forward position impressed this preseason. Coming into the season, Knicks fans wanted Randle out. His ball dribbling, tunnel-vision, iso-ball resulting in him spinning into a double team and dribbling the ball off a foot or forcing up a shot became the top frustration for Knicks fans last year.

There was less of that this preseason. A lot less.

He kept his eyes up when he had the ball, and it resulted in him averaging 5.5 assists per game in the four games played. 

If Randle has realized that his spin move is a formula for disaster every time he tries it and tries to pass before spinning into a turnover, Randle might be alright in the books of Knicks fans.

The Knicks are hoping Brooklyn-born, Ossining-graduated Obi Toppin becomes a star. The 8th overall pick did not start a game in the exhibition window and had an okay preseason. He averaged about 7 PPG and 6 RPG. Maybe not the stats one would want to see from their 8th overall pick, but if he is given time, he’ll average a double-double as he continues to learn the NBA. One area of concern may be his three-point shot. He went 1-for-11 from three in the preseason.

The kids have played well, Knicks fans. This is what we want.
Maybe this team is on the correct trend after all.

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