3 questions Knicks must answer during 2021-22 NBA preseason

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Julius Randle Kemba Walker RJ Barrett KNICKS TREATED ART 2021
Julius Randle Kemba Walker RJ Barrett KNICKS TREATED ART 2021

Here are three questions we’ll start to get answers to during the Knicks’ preseason...

What will Obi Toppin bring in Year 2, and how will that impact Julius Randle?

Toppin spent most of his days this offseason working at the Knicks’ training facility. We’ll start to see the results from his offseason work in the preseason. Toppin had a strong summer league and is determined to play better than he did as a rookie.

That progression is important for the Knicks for several reasons. One of them? If Toppin can give the Knicks consistent minutes at power forward, it will allow them to reduce Randle’s playing time if they choose.

Randle led the NBA in minutes per game last season. He inked a four-year extension in the offseason, so the Knicks clearly have a vested interest in his long-term health. Consistency from Toppin can help keep Randle fresh. It would also quiet some of the big picture questions around Toppin’s fit on a roster that’s led by Randle.

How will the defense fare with new faces like Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier?

The Knicks relied on their defense and bench play to win a lot of games last season. They enter the preseason with their bench mostly intact. The defense may look a bit different.

Walker and Fournier replace Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock in New York’s starting lineup. While Payton was maligned by the fan base for his shortcomings last season, people around the team credited him for the role he played in the team’s defensive schemes. He was part of a unit that had the top opponent field-goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage. Bullock often took on the challenge of defending the opponent’s top wing scorer.

How much will the Knicks feel the absence of Payton and Bullock? Will the offensive boost provided by Walker and Fournier outweigh any drop-off on defense? We’ll start to get an answer to that question over the next two weeks.

Will Kevin Knox crack Tom Thibodeau's rotation?

Knox is entering his fourth NBA season and his second season under Thibodeau. He was mostly out of the rotation last season. Will that change this year? It seems unlikely. If Thibodeau goes with a 10-man rotation, it’s hard to see Knox getting regular minutes.

But we probably would have said the same thing about Immanuel Quickley at the start of last preseason. Quickley excelled in the preseason and earned a rotation spot. So Knox should have the chance to earn minutes in the preseason.

"He’s had some really good practices. He’s got to continue to work. And then it’s how he fits into the group," Thibodeau said of Knox, who planned to play Summer League but was out due to COVID-19. ". … His strengths are his strengths. The shot-making. ... There’s other aspects of the game you have to perform well in – to help the team win when you’re not shooting well. Being an all-around player. That’s the challenge (for Knox) – to be an all-around player.”