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'Proven' Evan Fournier is Knicks' Frontrunner at SG

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has lauded Fournier as one of the team's best shooters.

When it comes to the 2022-23 New York Knicks' starting lineup, many presume the (Villanova) Wildcat Jalen Brunson and the (Duke) Blue Devil will headline the opening five. The returnee (Mitchell Robinson) and the All-Star (Julius Randle) are likewise expected to partake. 

Then there's the captain ... or, as fate would have it, Le Capitaine. 

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed that Evan Fournier, recently off a silver medal run wearing the C for the French national squad at EuroBasket 2022, is the team's frontrunner to start at shooting guard for the coming season. Fournier, who turns 30 next month, is set to enter his second season with the team and set the team record for most successful three-pointers in a single season (241). 

That shooting ability is what sold Thibodeau on Fournier's retained top five residence after starting and appearing in all but two games last season.

"We need shooting. The one thing that I know is that, with Jalen, with RJ, with Julius, we have to put shooting around them," Thibodeau said in video from SNY. "Mitchell will give us pressure on the rim, that's what will force a defense to collapse."

"Evan's proven. I thought the second half of last year, he played really well. I think we have good depth at that position. We'll see how everything unfolds."

Asked to clarify if that meant Fournier would indeed have the edge over younger competition like Quentin Grimes, Thibodeau repeatedly replied "Yup." 

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Despite his new brand of Knicks history (passing the mark of 217 John Starks set in 1995), Fournier shot a career-worst .417 from the field last season. But since his league entry as a first-round pick of Denver's in 2012, he has developed a role as an effective outside shooter. The magic number of 241 was good for the fourth-most triples in the NBA last season, trailing only Stephen Curry, Buddy Hield, and Fred VanVleet. 

Fournier's success at EuroBasket could also be seen as a step in the right direction: under his watch, France earned its best result since 2011, an effort that saw Fournier lead all French scorers with 15.3 points per game. To Thibodeau's point about shooting, the Knicks' disappointing follow-up to a fourth-place run in 2021 was partly brought about but struggles to put it in the hoop: New York was dead last in the NBA last season at 37.7 successful field goals per game. 

Like many on the Knicks' roster, Fournier was part of an endless stream of trade rumors, be it to build a budget for Jalen Brunson or an ultimately futile trade for Donovan Mitchell. Now that he appears firmly entrenched in the Knicks' opening group, he's focusing on contributing in all areas and believes a year in New York under his belt will allow for drastic improvements moving forward. 

"Knowing what to expect is really going to help me a lot," Fournier said about his sophomore season in Manhattan. "Last year, it took me a moment to really understand what my role was going to be with this team ... I started the year very poorly defensively because I let my offense really impact my defense ... I think it's really going to help me, just knowing the guys. I'm going to be myself, I'm going to compete as hard as I can, I'm going to be a good teammate." 

Fournier and the Knicks unofficially tip off the season Oct. 4 against the Detroit Pistons at home. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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