Knicks Players Who Can Benefit Most from Strong Training Camp Performances

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2021

Knicks Players Who Can Benefit Most from Strong Training Camp Performances

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    Elsa/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks feel pretty confident they know what they have on their roster heading into the 2021-22 NBA season.

    That's why they so heavily invested in it over the summer. They splurged on their own in free agency, and when they looked outside the organization for help, they did so with an eye on acquiring players who can help sustain or improve on last season's success.

    Time will reveal whether the Knicks have as many sure things as they think. Even now, though, the following three players have enough uncertainty with their outlook to stand out as having the most at stake when the team starts training camp.

Miles McBride

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    Michael J. LeBrecht II/Getty Images

    Some might scoff at seeing Miles McBride here. They might be proved right.

    Rookies have a hard enough time seeing the floor under coach Tom Thibodeau, and the 21-year-old isn't an obvious candidate to break the mold. Thirty-five players were drafted before him this summer, including two taken by the Knicks. Not to mention, he is now off to join an overcrowded group of point guards.

    And yet, there's something about McBride that makes you think he has a chance to endear himself to Thibodeau and find a way into his rotation. There's an undeniable maturity to his game, and the few warts he has—limited explosion and not much of an individual scoring threat—could be masked by the rest of this roster.

    His teammates will appreciate his unselfishness. Thibodeau will love his defensive drive. If McBride shows enough offensively at camp, he could command regular minutes from opening not. If not, he could have some G League tours in his near future.

Mitchell Robinson

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    Remember him?

    It wasn't that long ago Mitchell Robinson loomed as the most critical part of New York's rebuild. But with injuries playing an increasingly larger role in his NBA story, and his offensive game already threatening to plateau, his long-term standing with the organization has never felt more tenuous.

    It's worth pointing out, he's not out of the plans by any means. Knicks president Leon Rose is reportedly open to extending the 23-year-old before the season opener, per Marc Berman of the New York Post, but only "as long as it's not crazy."

    He needs to dominate camp, both to secure his financial future in the Big Apple and to silence any talk of a competition with Nerlens Noel for the starting center spot.

    Robinson has Defensive Player of the Year potential and bounds of rim-running ability. He needs to remind the Knicks of that and give them reasons to believe he can stay healthy long enough to fully tap into his potential.

Obi Toppin

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Like Obi Toppin's fit with the franchise itself, this one is complicated.

    It's hard to say how much the 23-year-old really has to gain at training camp, since there are obvious, enormous roadblocks on the roster ahead of him. Julius Randle just paced the Association in minutes (total and average), so it's not like there's a great opportunity at power forward. But kicking inside to center isn't really an option either with Robinson and Noel around.

    Saying all that, though, Toppin could have plenty to lose with a rough training camp. For now, he's a young player who just might be the victim of rough circumstances. It's not his fault that New York's best-player-available mentality netted it a player it didn't really need. But the longer he goes without putting notable numbers on the stat sheet, the more his value—as a building block or as a keeper—could take a hit.

    Remember, Toppin is by no means young for this league. He'll turn 24 in March. He's older than Frank Ntilikina. The trade-off with his age was supposed to an ability to contribute early in his career. If he's not doing that, it won't be long before the bust label starts flying around (fairly or not). He needs to use this camp to show the Knicks he's too good for them to sit.

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