Knicks midseason grades for 2021-22 NBA season

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Derrick Rose, Julius Randle, Tom Thibodeau and RJ Barrett treated image
Derrick Rose, Julius Randle, Tom Thibodeau and RJ Barrett treated image

As we reach the midway point of the season, it’s time to take stock and grade the performances of the individual Knicks.

The following report card takes into account roles and expectations entering the season, and does not include players who have appeared in fewer than 20 games...

Julius Randle: C-

How do you grade the franchise savior whose biggest season highlight was a beef with his own fanbase?

You can count on your fingers the games he’s had that remind you of his All-NBA season, and you might not need two hands. Still, he’s averaging 19-10-5 and the Knicks would be nowhere without him -- plus the lack of defensive energy has somewhat turned around in recent weeks.

RJ Barrett: C+

This seems like the best grade to reconcile the handful of career nights in which Barrett carried his Knicks to a win against his ugly shooting regression and inconsistent defense. There aren’t any clear improvements to his game and the aggressiveness in being one of New York’s top scorers is there one night, gone the next.

He gets a slight edge over Randle for maintaining a higher level of effort and improving his shooting as the season has gone on.

Evan Fournier: D

Fournier has been a capable catch-and-shoot option, and nothing else for a Knicks team that shelled out nearly $20 million a year for him. His two explosions against the Boston Celtics were nice, but you can’t sign up to be top scoring option and put up a quarter of your total points against one team. 13.6 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting from two isn’t going to cut it, especially when his defense is spotty, at best.

Mitchell Robinson: C

As is the theme with the Knicks' starters, consistency is the biggest issue. Robinson can be Defensive Player of the Year, a monster on the offensive glass, or an absolute zero. Neither sticks for long, and a midseason benching plus horrific free throw shooting (let’s see Robinson practice these in his offseason Instagram videos) makes it hard to give him more than a C.

Kemba Walker: C+

Walker has had quite the season, losing his rotation spot as a scapegoat for the starting unit’s troubles, then coming back to light up the league before having to sit out once again due to a sore knee. Assertiveness and availability have been his biggest issues this season, but he’s remained a pro throughout and played much better following his benching.

Derrick Rose: B+

Rose was doing everything the Knicks asked of him before needing ankle surgery that has kept him out during this crucial juncture. He would be an A player this season if he was able to stay healthy, but unfortunately that’s getting tougher with each passing year.

Immanuel Quickley: B+

Quickley may have gotten off to a rocky shooting start, but his defense and playmaking were improved from the jump and have only progressed as the season unfolded. Even amid his three-point drought he was closing games over Walker and Rose, and is looking like New York’s potential answer at point guard entering the home stretch.

Jan 8, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) controls the ball against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the first half at TD Garden.
Jan 8, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) controls the ball against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the first half at TD Garden.

Obi Toppin: B+

The Knicks’ energizer bunny had all but forced Tom Thibodeau’s hand into playing him more, despite the disappearance of his three-point shot. Toppin comes in and without a single play run for him changes the complexion of the offense, upping the pace and finding angles for open dunks where none should exist.

He still has his share of defensive miscues and low-impact nights, but was ultimately instrumental to the bench’s success this year.

Alec Burks: A-

At different points this season, Burks has been a reserve, a starter, a lead initiator, and a spot-up third option, fluctuating between these roles without drops in production or fit among the rest of the roster. He’s shooting 40 percent from deep and has saved the Knicks' skin on more than a couple occasions, something you’re lucky to get out of a complementary piece.

Quentin Grimes: A-

Maybe an A- is too much given his overall impact on the team, but when a late first round rookie brings a sense of consistency and expectation to a supposed playoff team whenever he checks in, how do you not reward it? Every time Grimes is on the floor, he defends and shoots the bejesus out of the ball, and makes you want more Grimes minutes.

Taj Gibson: B+

Once again, Gibson has stepped in during a barrage of injuries to the Knicks’ centers to provide some veteran defense. He’s shooting much worse from the field than in previous years, but at the ripe age of 36 there’s no reason to expect much more. An added wrinkle is his newfound willingness to step out and shoot the corner three.

Tom Thibodeau: C+

How much of this season’s disappointment falls on Thibodeau? He can put his players in better positions on the court, but can’t make Randle’s mid-range jumper magically reappear. His vaunted defense falling off a cliff is hard to ignore.

The Walker benching turned out to be a whiff, but on a positive note, he’s done a good job of closing with whoever is playing well in spite of age and contract size. The locker room and culture have seemingly held resilient despite the losing. Many Thibs-related complaints were made last year as well, so they’re baked in.

It's hard to place Thibs anywhere but down the middle of the road. He has this season’s second half to either step into oncoming traffic or get moving toward the promised land.