One of the bigger questions for New York coming out of Wednesday night: Who is the Knicks’ starting point guard for 2020-21?
New York could have $40 million in cap space for free agency, depending on what the club decides to do with players on unguaranteed contracts.
The Knicks could have the money to make a strong push for free agent point guard Fred VanVleet, but several teams monitoring the point guard market anticipate that VanVleet with end up back with Toronto.
New York could engage with Houston on a Russell Westbrook deal. With their moves in recent days, it seems like the Rockets are setting up for a rebuild.
But the Knicks have been unwilling to part with significant assets in any trade for Westbrook. And, as ESPN reported, the Rockets seem comfortable starting the season with Westbrook and James Harden on the roster if they don’t get the offers they seek in trades of either disgruntled star.
So the point guard spot remains an open question entering free agency.
What led the Knicks to Toppin? The Knicks have a strong familiarity with him. The Dayton forward worked out before the draft with Rick Brunson, who is close with both Tom Thibodeau and Leon Rose. Toppin is also represented by CAA, the agency Rose left to run the Knicks. So New York had strong intel on Toppin.
Some with the organization see him as a strong complement to RJ Barrett. Adding players who fit well with Barrett was among New York’s priorities entering the offseason.
Toppin also is widely considered one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz viewed Toppin as the best offensive player in college basketball last season and has said that Toppin’s game will translate well to the NBA. He can knock down shots from the perimeter, attack the rim, and he passes well.
He should have plenty of opportunity to play in his rookie season under Thibodeau.
The challenge for Toppin, Thibodeau, and the Knicks’ coaches will be on the defensive end. Toppin was a subpar defender in college. Can Thibodeau and the Knicks’ development staff help Toppin improve on that end of the floor? It’s something to keep an eye on during Toppin’s rookie season.
Toppin’s presence may also influence the Knicks’ roster decisions in free agency. (Will New York be aggressive in trying to move forward Julius Randle to make room for Toppin?)
What about Immanuel Quickley? The Knicks traded their 27th and 38th picks to Utah earlier Wednesday for pick No. 23. They then traded pick No. 23 to Minnesota for picks 25 and 33. At 25, they took Quickley, a guard from Kentucky.
Quickley is widely viewed as a strong shooter (43 percent from beyond the arc at Kentucky) who can create shots and get to the free-throw line. He also played for Knicks assistant Kenny Payne at Kentucky last season. So, like Toppin, the Knicks had a strong sense of the player they drafted.
By drafting a CAA client and Kentucky player, the Knicks have left themselves open to criticism if the picks don’t pan out. Just my opinion: it doesn’t make sense to critique Rose and the club for taking a player with a CAA or Kentucky connection until you have a chance to see how that player performs for the club.