The most intriguing Knicks storylines at Summer League

The Knicks begin Summer League action today.

LAS VEGAS – With the Knicks’ roster mostly set after probable upgrades at small forward (Evan Fournier) and point guard (Kemba Walker), the team’s brass can now focus on the five-game NBA Summer League that begins Sunday with the Knicks facing Toronto at 4:30 pm ET at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Despite finishing behind the Knicks last season, the Raptors could be a bigger Eastern Conference force this year after selecting two-way forward Scottie Barnes with the fourth-overall pick at the 2021 NBA Draft and swapping Kyle Lowry for Goran Dragic at point guard.

Toronto’s 2020 season was thrown into disarray as COVID-19 forced the club out of Canada, due to travel restrictions, and into a new home in Tampa Bay.

Toronto, which has one of the best home-court advantages in basketball, finished 16-20 in its temporary new home and 12th in the conference. It’s unclear whether the Raptors will be able to return to Canada this coming season.

The Knicks entered Sunday’s game as four-point favorites over Toronto, according to the Westgate Sports Book in Vegas. They are 10-1 to win the Summer League title at Westgate. Fans in attendance are required to wear masks under new Nevada guidelines.

Here’s five Knicks summer-league storylines:

1. How will their 2020 first-round picks look?

Obi Toppin, selected eighth-overall last November, and Immanuel Quickley, who fell to 25th, are back in Las Vegas after a week-long stint on the US Select Team training with the U.S. Olympic Team.

Quickley didn’t make it through the whole week as he was placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocol. Sources say he didn’t test positive but instead was deemed a close contact.

Obi Toppin dunks while training with the USA Men’s Select Team.
Getty Images

Toppin and Quickley didn’t have the benefit of a summer league after getting drafted because of the pandemic. This event is more important for Toppin, who averaged just 11 minutes behind power forward Julius Randle last season and was never able to spread his wings.

During Friday’s Summer League practice, Quickley and Toppin put on a show with Quickley stealing the ball from rookie Miles McBride at halfcourt and flinging an alley-oop lob for Toppin, who jammed it home. If they dominate early, it’s unlikely they’ll play all five games.

The Debut of Quentin Grimes

The Knicks entered the draft with picks 19 and 21 but turned that into the 25th pick plus two future draft choices (a heavily protected Charlotte first-rounder that may never be conveyed and a 2024 second-rounder).

The good news is the Knicks think Grimes was worthy of the 19th slot. Most scouts viewed Grimes as an early second-rounder until he looked terrific at the combine in Chicago. That turned the Knicks’ heads – along with a splendid private workout in Tarrytown. The former Kansas transfer led the University of Houston to its Final Four since 1984 with his defense and 3-point shotmaking.

Quentin Grimes
Getty Images

3. The Spanish League Lefty Combo Guard Battle

Considering the Knicks already had Spanish Leaguer Luca Vildoza in the fold, it was surprising they selected a similar player in Rokas Jokubaitis of Lithuania with the 34th pick. The Knicks are leaning toward having the 20-year-old start his contract with Barcelona for a year to continue to develop. But the brass has been very impressed with his basketball IQ during Las Vegas summer practices, so all bets are off.

The Post has learned Jokubaitis, who still needs to improve his 3-point shot, doesn’t have to be bought out because his Barcelona contract technically hasn’t started yet.

4. The Miles McBride Revenge Tour

The West Virginia point guard was insulted he fell to 36th in the draft. Undersized but gritty with a sweet 3-point shot, McBride says he will make teams “pay’’ for passing on him. It can start Sunday.

5. The Land of Jericho

It was stunning the Knicks actually came away from the draft with potentially four rookies for their roster — five counting Vildoza.  It was presumed the Knicks might just trade the 58th pick after snatching Grimes, McBride and Jokubaitis.

But trading a pick that deep is difficult because the return may have too many protections on it. And it became a no-brainer when Texas senior big man Jericho Sims slipped to 58. The 6-foot-10 power forward out of Minneapolis is touted as a defensive specialist with great athleticism but could be a roster depth piece – especially if center Mitchell Robinson is either unhealthy or traded.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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