New York Knicks: Should Evan Fournier or Quentin Grimes start at SG?

New York Knicks Quentin Grimes (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Knicks Quentin Grimes (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

Should Quentin Grimes or Evan Fournier start at the shooting guard position for the New York Knicks? 

With the NBA preseason knocking on the door and a highly motivated young stud like Quentin Grimes competing to hear his name called in the starting lineup of the New York Knicks, let’s dive into some statistics and evaluations to project who should be the better starting option at the shooting guard position for the Knickerbockers – Evan Fournier or Quentin Grimes?

Evan Fournier – offensive threat or defensive liability for the New York Knicks?

Evan Fournier is getting ready for his second season as a Knick, coming off a good, but not a great offensive performance for France at the EuroBasket 2022, helping his team win the silver medal. The French veteran led his team in scoring with 15.3 points per game, finishing 18th overall in the category at the event.

His shooting and scoring abilities have never been questioned throughout his 10 seasons in the NBA, indeed they are his trademark and have been well known to the ordinary basketball fan.

Going into his 11th season in the NBA (started in 497 of his 645 games), Fournier has cemented himself as a solid 3-point spot-up and off-the-catch shooter (career 38.1% 3-point shooter, 88% of his 619 attempted shots during the last season were assisted) and a good bucket getter from mid-range when needed.

A closer look at his stats from his first season with the Knicks shows that the French shooting guard was the third highest scorer on the roster, averaging 14.1 points, while recording the most starts among his teammates – 80 and getting the third biggest chunk of playing time per game – 29.5 minutes.

While his offensive game doesn’t raise questions, being able to space the floor nicely or beat his guy off the dribble to create a shot for himself or finish down the lane when needed, his poor ability to defend the perimeter to go along with a low level of engagement and effort on that end of the court seems to be the biggest separators between him and his younger substitution, Quentin Grimes.

Quentin Grimes – going for a breakout season

After an impressive showing at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, averaging 22.6 points per game and being named to the First Team of the tournament, the 25th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Grimes is entering the training camp with high expectations for having a breakout season and chance to prove he deserves getting more playing time. Grimes was able to take full advantage of the event, playing heavy minutes, and being able to experiment a lot on the offensive side of the ball in real game situations.

Grimes seized the moment from the jump during his first season in the League, proving he could be a good 3-and-D option off the bench for the Knicks down the road thanks to a solid defensive blend of pesky on-ball character, sharp awareness on that end, and lateral footwork in a combination with sniper abilities from outside (a 38.1% 3-point shooter, 95.8% of his 189 attempted shots during the last season were assisted).

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard played in 45 games in his rookie season for the Knicks, starting in six of them, averaging six points per 17.1 minutes of playing action on the floor.

The instrumental showcase from Grimes during the NBA Summer League gives high hopes to the Knicks fandom that he could turn into more than just a 3-and-D guy who comes off the bench in the League and go for a starting spot.

Having high expectations based solely on production in the Summer League usually could be tricky, as it does not always translate to a player’s performance in the regular season, nevertheless the Texas-born shooting guard impressed the basketball world this summer with his improved offensive game at the tournament and eventually helped write off his name from any trade considerations.

The experience and high-level scoring instincts are on the side of Evan Fournier, while at the same time being more of a liability on the defensive end might move the French veteran away from the goal. The bright upside of Grime’s offensive game and the defensive tenacity he can bring to the table is the main pros for starting the sophomore in the upcoming season.

Don’t know what’s going through Tom Thibodeau’s mind, but if he and his coaching staff want to have a better performing team defensively, then Grimes seems to be the answer, meanwhile having Fournier playing with the second unit will provide the Knicks with an experienced scorer who can help them create runs.

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Whether Thibodeau would rely on the more experienced player (as he usually does) or would take the challenge and pay homage to the young blood, only time will tell us.