Knicks' free agents may limit Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley
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The Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein signings were mostly applauded, additions that should help the Knicks improve upon last season’s 37-win campaign.

Brunson should solve a decades-long problem at point guard and Hartenstein figures to upgrade the frontcourt with his elite passing ability and shooting range.

Where that leaves two of the Knicks’ best young players — Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin — is uncertain. But larger roles seem unlikely as the duo may have to get used to remaining as contributors off the bench.

As long as Julius Randle is around, it seems that Toppin’s ceiling with the Knicks will be limited and the addition of the rim-protecting, ball-moving Hartenstein blocks the chance to see more of Toppin and Randle playing together. Plus, coach Tom Thibodeau has never been a fan of such lineups, because of the defensive liabilities the duo create in the paint minus a true shot blocker.

Toppin, Leon Rose’s first pick as Knicks’ president (No. 8 overall in 2020), enjoyed a much better sophomore season than rookie year, more than doubling his scoring average (from 4.1 to 9.0) and producing better rebounding and assists numbers in more minutes. He finished the year exceedingly well, averaging 27.2 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 46.3 percent from 3-point range (19-for-41) over his last five games. Of course, the 24-year-old Toppin received big minutes in those contests, with Randle sidelined due to a nagging quad injury.

Knicks
Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin
USA TODAY Sports

As for Quickley, 23, he improved as an all-around player last season, posting more assists and rebounds, but his long-range jumper wasn’t as reliable, dropping from 38.9 percent to 34.6 from 3-point range. Part of that can be attributed to the former Kentucky star playing on the ball more — injuries to Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose created a mammoth hole at point guard — but also the Knicks trying to see if Quickley had the ability to expand on his playmaking ability. It could also be the result of opponents being wary of his ability from distance. He did close well, shooting 39.4 percent from downtown in the final 29 games and his 3.5 assists-per-game average was a step in the right direction.

Either way, it would seem Quickley will return to his role as a microwave scorer off the bench now that the Knicks have found their point guard in Brunson, and Rose is expected to be healthy at the season’s outset.

“I just control what I can control, man, and that’s working hard, getting better every day,’’ Quickley, the No. 25 overall pick in the 2020 draft, said late in the year. “If that’s starting, that’s coming off the bench, it is what it is.”

There is clearly nothing wrong with the young players remaining as part of the second unit. They can blossom there, and improve the Knicks’ depth or maybe even be used as trade chips down the road. But after they both finished strong last season with expanded roles, all indications are the two will have to go back to leading the reserves.

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