Tom Thibodeau is a model of consistency. Defenders, powerful guards, and veterans are his three favorite types of people. The likelihood of playing for a Thibodeau team increases with age. The Knicks appear to be continuing that trend for another season as training camp gets underway in New York this week. According to Thibodeau, Quentin Grimes, a second-year breakout prospect, won’t be starting at shooting guard for the Knicks; rather, 29-year-old Evan Fournier will.
Grimes only displayed glimpses of his potential as a rookie, but he was one of the top performers at the Summer League in Las Vegas. Grimes’ presence was a big issue when the Knicks talked about trading for former Utah Jazz standout Donovan Mitchell. Because New York’s front staff has such high hopes for Grimes, Mitchell is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Grimes will have to put up a battle to defeat the more seasoned Fournier despite his faith.
Again, this is Thibodeau’s fashion. Obi Toppin, the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has made it much more frustrating to watch. Toppin played fewer minutes per game than Taj Gibson, who was 36 years old last season and had previously been released by the Knicks. Taj Gibson averaged 19 points per 36 minutes last season while shooting over 53 percent from the field. Gibson, who worked under Thibodeau in Chicago, is a much stronger defender than Toppin.
Ironically, it appears that this season’s offense is what is keeping Grimes from succeeding. The needs of New York’s starting shooting guard this season, according to Thibodeau, are “we need shooting with Jalen [Brunson], with RJ [Barrett], with Julius [Randle].” Both Fournier and Grimes have a career field goal percentage of 38.1 percent, but Fournier has done so over a far longer period of time and on a significantly greater volume.
Of course, the Knicks’ goal this season isn’t to win a championship. They are laying the groundwork for a time when Grimes will be far more crucial than Fournier. During the Mitchell talks, the front office appeared to comprehend this. It remains to be seen if Thibodeau will.