NYCSportsNation

From players to fans, it has been quite the rollercoaster season for everyone involved with the New York Knicks. They sit in 11th place of the Eastern Conference, struggling to reach that final play-in spot, yet still surviving. The team has shown some grittiness and some fight with the fate of their season on the balance. Fans will credit Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, some will credit RJ Barrett and/or Immanuel Quickley for their ascension. 

Rightly so, at least for the kids, that is.

But, there is an unsung hero behind this season-longest four-game winning streak.

Evan Fournier.

It’s been a tough first season in New York for Fournier. His star was at its brightest in game one in that thrilling win over the Boston Celtics, but his star would quickly dim over the next few weeks and fluctuate in illumination all season. His inconsistency on the floor accompanied with his excuses of bad steaks and time changes drew the ire of Knicks fans everywhere.

His season averages sit at 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists, hovering near his career averages. Nothing breathtaking, which has been the case for all of Fournier’s games as a Knick with the exception of four or so.

But over the last ten games, a stretch in which New York has a 6-4 record, Fournier has been fine.

During the first five games of this ten-game stretch, Fournier was at his best. He was averaging 16.6 points per game on about 11 shots from the floor a night, successfully cashing in 49% of the time and taking nine three-pointers a game at a 49% clip. He also grabbed two rebounds a game, but his 4.1 assists per game and 1.6 steals per game is what stood out.

In this clip, Fournier finds open space to bail Barrett out of a tough situation. He then tries to wiggle himself out of the corner with a spin to the baseline, which Kris Dunn gives him. Fournier drives into the open space and draws a triple team. Fournier pumps the brakes, gives it to Robinson with a bounce pass for the two handed flush.

Here’s a different Fournier-to-Robinson connection. Fournier gets the ball up top, Robinson is going to set the screen but then slips. RJ Barrett comes from the weak side corner and adds a body to the mix, which causes the Nets to have a miscommunication. Kevin Durant doesn’t see Barrett until he starts to pop. Durant switched onto Barrett and Barrett’s defender, Bruce Brown, didn’t get the message to switch. He takes an extra step towards Barrett after Durant picks him up, which leaves enough space for Robinson to get open for a moment. Brown can’t recover the half-step he lost and it leads to a dunk for Robinson.

Great play design, great execution, great awareness by Fournier.

He’s also getting assists off the bounce, leading to open threes.

Here, Fournier gets it in the corner but is given the baseline by Zaire Williams. Steven Adams has his head up and is cheating off his man, Robinson, who makes his way to the weak side. Adams then makes his way across the key to cover up the baseline Williams is giving Fournier and the paint and he entrusts Jaren Jackson, Jr. to cover Robinson while keeping Alec Burks in his sights. Fournier uses the space he is given, which turns into a double team. At this point, Robinson makes his way to the restricted area, forcing Jackson, Jr. to fight with him in the paint and leave Alec Burks wide open in the corner for three. 

Now let’s take a look at a few of his steals. Take a look at the time stamp. In the first clip, he flexes his muscles on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and in the second clip, he surprises Kyle Kuzma.

Now, over his last five games, Fournier’s shooting has hit inconsistency again. Still shooting about 11 shots again, but now at a 28% clip from the floor while he continues to shoot about nine threes a game, converting 28% of them. But the little things are still going his way. He continues to average four assists per game with a steal a night.

It’s been rocky for Fournier this season in New York. Fans can be frustrated with the results of Fournier’s overall season and it would be very understandable. For the better part of the season, he has been a no-show who can’t stop a nosebleed. But this fine play over the last ten games is pivotal for the Knicks front office. There is no secret that a trade needs to be made by the Knicks. There is a front office somewhere that sees this and deems it as valuable. The Knicks’ front office has to flex its muscles and find that front office and use him as a chip.

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