3 reasons why the Knicks should not start Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier
When the New York Knicks were parading a backcourt of Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock last season, that seemed to be a cause of concern because of their inability to produce offensive numbers. Thus, the Knicks signed Evan Fournier to a four-year, $78 million contract and Kemba Walker to a two-year, $17 million deal. It seemed like a brilliant idea for Knicks boss Leon Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau, but it has been a disaster in the first 15 games of their campaign.
The Knicks’ fourth quarter lineups recently have not been including Walker and Fournier because Thibodeau has been relying on other players like Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, or Alec Burks. The last time Fournier played over 30 minutes was on the sixth game of the season, while Walker has been ineffective as well.
With the Knicks’ early-season struggles, Thibodeau may need to pull the trigger and adjust their rotation.
Defense has been atrocious
The majority of the lineup combinations that include Walker and Fournier have been surrendering easy points every single night. Even if Payton and Bullock had subpar offensive production, their defense was excellent as it was perfect for the culture that Thibodeau wants to impart.
With the acquisition of Walker and Fournier, guards and wings have been forcing switches and capitalizing on their defensive weaknesses. Last season, New York was fourth in defensive rating, but that has plummeted to currently to a below-average of 19th this season. The Knicks’ key pieces have been abysmal defensively as well, but the glaring holes of Fournier and Walker have forced Thibodeau to keep them on the bench in crucial stretches of every game.
The main reason for the Knicks to sign the two scorers was because of their shooting repertoire that the team sorely needed, especially in the NBA Playoffs. Ironically, Fournier and Walker have been two of the squad’s worst shooters at 40.6 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively. Walker’s three-point shooting has been terrific at 42.1 percent on two makes a game, but his scoring average has decreased to a dismal 12.2 points outing.
Fournier had a brilliant opening night at Madison Square Garden, but he has failed to score over 20 points in any other game since. When he is struggling from the field, it is tough for him to contribute in other facets of the game, which prompts Thibodeau to try and insert other guards to find their rhythm. Walker, meanwhile, has continued to be affected with lingering knee issues that have drastically affected his shooting prowess as well.
Second unit guards have more impact
Fournier and Walker have tallied better statistics than other Knicks guards, but those have not translated to continuous wins. There have been games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic wherein Thibodeau decided to insert his second unit which has reaped its rewards. The starters have played 256 minutes together, but they are being outscored by over 17 points by their opponents.
For instance, the second unit of the Knicks has tallied a point differential of plus-28 with Taj Gibson at center and a plus-34 with Nerlens Noel as the anchor. From the foursome of Rose, Quickley, Burks, and Obi Toppin, Thibodeau must decide to adjust with their guards and find the right combination that will be more efficient.
Deciding to stick it out with the current rotation may still work because it is still at the early juncture of the season, but Thibodeau can experiment by inserting some role players into their starting lineup. Trying it out for around five games may lead to critical victories and rekindle their rhythm in the much-improved Eastern Conference.
There is a cause of concern for the Knicks, but they still have over 60 games to search for the perfect lineups for Walker and Fournier to flourish.