Friday, March 31 2023
New York Knicks forward Jericho Sims (45) grabs a rebound in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden.

New York Knicks forward Jericho Sims (45) grabs a rebound in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

One of the highlights of this young Knicks season has been the emergence of Jericho Sims, the second-year center they selected with two picks remaining in last year’s draft.

Slated to be the team’s third string man in the middle, an early injury to Mitchell Robinson opened up an opportunity for the big, and he took advantage.

Over the last nine games, Sims averaged 20 minutes a night, along with 6.3 points and seven rebounds on 73.5 percent shooting from the field. Over 36 minutes this would be a healthy double-double, with strong defense to boot.

Sims got to get his first taste of the NBA late last season, when the Knicks’ chances looked bleak and they moved him up the depth chart to get a look at their prospect. The talent was evident, and he shot 72.2 percent from the field, but he had his share of rookie mistakes that are to be expected.

He looked improved at the Vegas Summer League, anchoring one of the best defenses there. His strides are manifesting at the next level.

The Knicks haven’t missed a step with Sims on the floor. He has the highest rebounding rate on the team and is swatting 2.5 shots per 36 minutes. Even with Robinson healthy, he might be the Knicks most athletically rounded center, a blend of speed, power, and hops.

At times, head coach Tom Thibodeau has even leaned on him situationally over bigs higher in the depth chart. This is because he’s looked much more comfortable retreating out to shooting bigs or switching out on guards than his fellow centers.

One late-game possession had Sims stuck on All-Star point guard Jamal Murray in crunch time, and the sophomore came away with the stop in isolation. His IQ and footwork are well ahead of schedule for a second-year player.

Offensively, he’s largely limited to at-rim finishes. His teammates constantly track him for lob attempts as he can sky over most players and does a good job catching and finishing strong with two hands.

Sims has shown signs of a floater but hasn’t had many chances to utilize it. It’s a small sample size but he’s shot an impressive 7-of-9 from the free throw stripe this season.

It’s amazing to watch his play considering where he was drafted. The last ten drafts only had a couple players selected with the final three picks carve out a legitimate NBA career: Paul Reed and Jordan McRae. Sims looks to be the latest.

For a front office now on the warm seat, victories like the Sims pick are invaluable. Landing rotation pieces deep in the draft gives them cost-controlled talent for years, on top of improving depth.

It’s unclear what Sims’ ceiling is. He’s already a reliable defender and lob threat, which alone could make him a starter-level center in the anchoring rim-runner archetype with further growth.

The Knicks just signed Robinson to an extension this summer, and when healthy and locked in he’s an All-NBA defender. This also muddies Sims’ Knicks future.

Whatever it may entail, fans should be grateful for what he’s provided in the present. Past third bigs featured aging vets or fringe names, while Sims, only 24 years of age, already looks like a fully-fledged backup.

If he continues this play, he could be due for a larger role going forward. Thibodeau has even thrown minutes at him with both other centers available and playing.

Perhaps he’ll make for more of a trade piece in the next round of discussions for a star. Either way, he’s far and away outperformed the expectations that come with a 58th pick.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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