Tom Thibodeau is nothing if not consistent. He likes defenders, explosive guards, and above all else, veterans. The older you are, the more you tend to play on a Thibodeau team. With training camp opening in New York this week, it looks as though the Knicks will be maintaining that trend for another season. Thibodeau told the media that 29-year-old Evan Fournier, not second-year breakout candidate Quentin Grimes, is expected to start at shooting guard for the Knicks.
While Grimes showed only flashes as a rookie, he was one of the best players at Summer League in Las Vegas. When the Knicks discussed a trade for former Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, Grimes' inclusion was a major sticking point. Mitchell is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers in part because of how strongly New York's front office believes in Grimes. But despite that faith, Grimes is going to have to fight to beat out the more proven Fournier.
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This is, again, Thibodeau's style. It has played out to a much more maddening degree with Obi Toppin, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Toppin averaged 19 points per 36 minutes a season ago on over 53 percent shooting from the field, yet he was granted fewer minutes per game than Taj Gibson, who was 36 last season and had been waived by the Knicks multiple times. Gibson played for Thibodeau in Chicago and is much more of a defensive presence than Toppin.
Ironically, it seems to be offense that is standing in Grimes' way this season. "With Jalen [Brunson], with RJ [Barrett], with Julius [Randle] we need shooting," Thibodeau said of the demands of New York's starting shooting guard this season. Both Fournier and Grimes have shot 38.1 percent from behind the arc in their careers, though Fournier has done so over a much longer period of time on considerably higher volume.
Of course, the Knicks aren't playing to win a championship this season. They are building towards a future that depends far more on Grimes than Fournier. The front office seemed to realize that during the Mitchell negotiations. Whether or not Thibodeau will remains to be seen.