A Way Too Early Knicks Rotation Projection


So, it’s August. The NBA season is, as I write this, 66 days away. Training Camp and Preseason haven’t started yet. There’s been no chance for players to fight for spots in Derek Fisher’s rotation. Heck, I’d be willing to bet that Sasha Vujacic doesn’t even know what Langston Galloway looks like or what a Lance Thomas is.

What I’m trying to say is this: it’s really early. Like, crazy early. Nearly everything I’m about to say is about as practical as an air conditioner in Antarctica. Some players will get injured, some players will just generally suck (though that didn’t limit Bargnani’s minutes…), and, who knows, maybe Jamal Crawford or some other NBA body ends up on the roster. But, that doesn’t stop the mind from wandering, and it shouldn’t prevent us from having some fun.

Since each team plays five guys at a time, and each one of those five players can play up to 48 minutes in one game, there are 248 minutes that need to be allocated. This projection is not going to account for the sporadic minutes Thanasis Antetokounmpo will see in blowouts, or the extra burn Carmelo Anthony may receive in a double overtime game against Toronto. This is merely an educated guess as to how Fisher will break up the team’s minutes, on average, during a random competitive game.

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Lead Guards:

Jose Calderon, Starter – 29 minutes

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that for better or worse, Calderon is going to be the starting “lead guard” for the Knicks. Normally starting guards play more than 30 minutes a night, but last year Calderon averaged 30.2 minutes per game while battling various injuries and playing for a team that was frequently not in the game when the 4th quarter rolled around. This year, the Knicks will most likely look to lighten Calderon’s workload in an attempt to keep him fresh. Playing for a better team while also battling durability questions makes 29 minutes seem like a logical number.

Langston Galloway – 21 minutes

I think the Knicks like Galloway a lot. I think the Knicks need Galloway’s long arms and defensive acumen/willingness on the perimeter. I think the Knicks will frequently play two of the three lead guards in this category with each other to try to play a more fluid style of ball. All in all, Galloway is not going to get the 32.4 minutes per game he received last year. It takes unique circumstances for an undrafted, mid-season D-League call-up to get thrown into the starting lineup and play the fourth most minutes on the team for the whole year despite playing in only 41 games but the Knicks were, umm, unique. Yeah, let’s go with “unique”.

Jerian Grant – 19 minutes

Grant, from day one, will be the Knicks best pick and roll ballhandler and I anticipate that lineups with him at the one and Melo at the four are going to rake. In fact, I’m completely in favor of starting Grant and letting Calderon be the linchpin of the bench units. I don’t see that happening, however. The Knicks will most likely give Grant time to adjust to the game and use him as a spark-plug for bench units that need more oomph. Hopefully it’ll be more, but 20 minutes a night for a non-lottery rookie is still pretty good.

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Arron AfflaloStarter – 35 minutes

Get ready to see a lot of Arron Afflalo. The former Magic/Nugget/Blazer is one of the few two-way players on the Knicks. He’s going to be the guy who guards every opponents’ best wing, the secondary scorer after Melo (may God heal his knee), and the Knicks aren’t exactly flush with proven reserve wings (my apologies to the Early and Antetokounmpo families). 35 minutes may be a low approximation here. I expect that all of the bench wings will be jealous of Arron Afflalo, though they should see that he’s the one to follow, and if we’re lucky, may bring brighter tomorrows. Sorry.

Cleanthony Early – 0 minutes

I’m not the biggest fan of Early the basketball player. He’s not a particularly good three point shooter, or defender, or passer, or rebounder, or, I’m actually going to stop because I feel like I’m piling on. I don’t think there are more than four or five teams in the whole league where Early would be in consideration for 15 minutes a game. But, the Knicks aren’t exactly the ’85 Celtics. I mean, they just signed Sasha Vujacic (see below) and as far as I can tell that wasn’t a joke. Ultimately, I think Melo, Afflalo, and Derrick Williams will combine to see 48 minutes a night at small forward. I can see Early starting the season in Fisher’s rotation, but eventually ceding his place. I just don’t think he’s ready for consistent playing time on a team that isn’t a joke.

Sasha Vujacic – 0 minutes

I’m not ready to live in a world where Sasha Vujacic is an important bench cog for the Knicks. Up until like two weeks ago I had assumed he was either dead or in witness protection. For my own sanity, zero minutes for Sasha. None. Not on my watch.

February 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Sasha Vujacic (18) moves the ball against Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Elliot Williams (25) during the second half at Staples Center. Did you know Vujacic was still alive? Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Thanasis Antetokounmpo – 0 minutes

Thanasis should play in blowouts for the sake of experience, but not much more. Most of his year should consist of frequent trips to Westchester so he can remember what running around in shorts feels like.

Small Forward/Power Forward Hybrids:

Carmelo Anthony, starter (at the three) – 35 minutes

First, let’s just address that the Knicks are way better when Melo plays the four and this category of player exists in this article with the hope that Melo will play more four, and eventually start at the four. It doesn’t seem likely though.

Melo is clearly the franchise’s focus. He’s the equivalent of the bell-cow running back who is ridden so frequently that their body deteriorates before it’s ready (like everybody’s fear with DeMarco Murray). Melo, sorry sorry, Me70 is unfortunately showing signs of some breakage. It’s time for the Knicks to reverse this trend and monitor his minutes so that Me7o can be fresh for not just March and April, but the remainder of his contract. It will be tempting to push Me7o to his limits in tight games; Me70 may even ask for it. But the Knicks need to resist this temptation so that their best player can, wait for it, Stay Me70.

Derrick Williams – 21 minutes

What Derrick Williams will bring to this team is unpredictable. Maybe he taps into the guy who performed open-heart surgery on Duke during the 2011 Sweet 16. Maybe he’s the guy whose been mediocre at best for the past four seasons. I don’t know. You don’t know. I’m pretty sure Derrick Williams doesn’t know. What I do know, however, is that the Knicks wouldn’t have given him a player option for year two of his deal if they weren’t intrigued with his skill set. He’s going to play. He may even be third or fourth on the team in scoring.

Lance Thomas – 0 minutes

Lance did a serviceable job last year. He’s a versatile defender, he’s unselfish, and he tries really, really hard. I just think the Knicks brought him back for depth, continuity, and culture purposes more than anything else. And, you know what, I’m totally on board with that.

Big Men:

Robin Lopezstarter – 36 minutes

Robin Lopez should play a lot. I think the Knicks defensive rating splits are going to be night and day when Lopez plays and when he sits. Lopez will be the stem of the team from which it’s leaves can bloom. He’s going to be so, so important. Although the Knicks have a lot of bigs, I’d be shocked if Lopez’s minutes don’t fall in the range of 34-38 minutes per game.

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  • Kyle O’Quinn, starter – 20 minutes

    Predicting who is going to start at power forward for the Knicks is awfully hard. If Fish was smart, it’d be Carmelo. If they just want to throw Kristaps Porzingis into the deep end to see if he can swim, he can find himself on the floor for the opening tip on opening night.

    Yet, I think the Knicks may turn to O’Quinn. It is admittedly unlikely, but I think during training camp and preseason the Knicks may realize just how big of a gem they found in free agency and decide that they want to display it for the world to see.

    O’Quinn is a long-armed defender, shockingly good passer (especially from the high post), and is pretty rangy for his size. You can do far worse for a power forward between Melo and Lopez. The only reason his minute total is so low for a starter is that there aren’t that many minutes to give out when you consider that Melo will get some time at the four in floor spacing lineups and Porzingis is going to be given time to find his footing.

    Kristaps Porzingis – 20 minutes

    Porzingis’ development is the pivotal, critical, all-encompassing aspect of this season, and Porzingis needs to play to develop. Phil Jackson recently said that, “it would great if KP could get as much as 20 minutes a game early in the season.” Who am I to argue with Phil?

    Kevin Seraphin – 12 minutes

    Man the Knicks have a lopsided roster. There are a lot of bigs here! Seraphin is a pretty good player with a soft touch on his jump hooks that should be extra helpful considering how prevalent post-ups are in the triangle offense. I think Seraphin will see the bulk of the backup center minutes although I think Lou Admundson is going to give him a run for his money.

    Lou Admundson – 0 minutes

    Somethings got to give. Admundson certainly isn’t a great player but he is good enough to warrant minutes. He is an incredibly hard worker and a self-less, team-first player. Every team can use more guys like Lou. There are just not enough minutes to make all of the bigs happy. At some point, the Knicks will make a deal where they give a tall guy to a team that needs a tall guy. Until then, I guess Lou is the odd man out.