Pros and cons of three possible Knicks starting lineups for 2022-23

The New York Knicks are amidst one of their busiest offseasons in recent memory. The club has already inked a multi-year contract with prized free agents Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson, and they continue to be rumored as the favorites to land Jazz superstar Donovan Mitchell.

Fans will have to patiently wait to see if this latter addition comes to pass. Yet, New York already appears to be noticeably improved entering the 2022-2023 NBA season.

However, the franchise’s current collection of talent has led to a great deal of speculation about the starting lineup. It appears as though (barring another trade) Brunson is a lock to join RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Robinson as starters. Yet, questions still remain about each player’s position and who else will crack the starting five.

Here are the three likeliest options:

Knicks starting lineup option #1: Giant lineup

  • PG: Jalen Brunson
  • SG: RJ Barrett
  • SF: Obi Toppin
  • PF: Julius Randle
  • C: Mitchell Robinson

Why it works: I love this lineup because it allows budding star Obi Toppin to crack the starting lineup. This would be a well-deserved promotion. While the team can provide Toppin with heavy minutes off the bench, it would be special for the former lottery pick to top the depth chart.

This lineup would also feature a noticeable rebounding edge and a slew of long defenders and rim protectors.

Why it doesn’t: Unfortunately, this lineup would create spacing issues on offense. Brunson is a legitimate shooting threat with a career 3-point percentage of 37%. However, the rest of the lineup would not space the floor well on paper.

Barrett was an improved 34% 3-point shooter last season. Randle’s percentage fell to just 31%, a mark he shares with Toppin. And of course, Robinson is a non-factor in terms of shooting and floor spacing.

While this lineup has its advantages, the risk likely doesn’t match the reward of having Toppin as a starter. This is a hard pass.

Knicks starting lineup option #2: The offense heavy option

  • PG: Jalen Brunson
  • SG: Evan Fournier (or Immanuel Quickley)
  • SF: RJ Barrett
  • PF: Julius Randle
  • C: Mitchell Robinson

Why it works: This lineup corrects the aforementioned shooting issues by replacing a subpar marksman in Toppin with sharpshooter Evan Fournier. As you recall, the French guard set the Knicks’ franchise record for total threes hit in a single season last year.

This move also allows Barrett to man a more natural small forward position, where his 34% mark feels like less of a liability.

Why it doesn’t: While this lineup leans heavily towards offense, it is woefully lacking defensively. This unit pairs an undersized Brunson with another defensive liability in Fournier.

At the end of the day, the Knicks’ best chance to return to the postseason is to recapture their defensive identity. A Brunson/Fournier backcourt feels like a move in the wrong direction.

For those curious about Quickley, the combo guard unfortunately creates the same issue. Despite the burst of offensive brilliance, I have long held the option that IQ is best developed as a sixth man.

Knicks starting lineup #3: The balanced lineup

  • PG: Jalen Brunson
  • SG: Quentin Grimes
  • SF: RJ Barrett
  • PF: Julius Randle
  • C: Mitchell Robinson

Why it works: As currently constituted, inserting Grimes into the starting lineup gives New York its best combination of shooting and defense in the backcourt. While he is not the same offensive threat as more established players like Fournier or Quickley, Grimes’ 38% 3-point mark will force opposing defenders to stick to him like glue.

This will free up space for the Knicks’ ball handlers to attack the basket and finish at the rim. And if defenders sink off Grimes to help, the second-year player has the shooting skills to make them pay.

Why it doesn’t: The biggest drawback to this lineup is that it benches a more established guard. I’d rather send out Quickley or Fournier’s offense in a vacuum. However, their defensive struggles necessitates plugging in Grimes.

Leave a Comment