5. Why Tom Thibodeau is the right hire for the Knicks: The minutes complaint is somewhat dated
The primary reason to be skeptical of the New York Knicks hiring Tom Thibodeau is playing time. Throughout his Chicago Bulls tenure, as well as the first season of his Minnesota Timberwolves run, he was accused of overworking his best players.
If one actually takes the time to evaluate the growth that Thibodeau displayed in that regard, however, they’ll start to believe that the minutes complaint is dated.
In Minnesota, Karl-Anthony Towns’ minutes decreased during each of his three seasons with Thibodeau as head coach. After averaging 37.0 minutes per game during Thibodeau’s first season at the helm, Towns was on the court for 35.6 in 2017-18.
At the time of Thibodeau’s firing during the 2018-19 campaign, Towns’ playing time had been cut down to 33.9 minutes per game—a figure that would’ve ranked outside of the top 20 in the NBA.
The same story can be told of Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins averaged 37.2 minutes per game during Thibodeau’s first season and 36.3 during his second. At the time of Thibodeau’s departure in 2018-19, Wiggins’ playing time had been cut to 34.7 minutes per game—a decrease of 2.5 per contest.
For what it’s worth: Jimmy Butler also played fewer minutes in Minnesota than he did during his final non-Thibs year in Chicago.
It may be easy to push the narrative that Thibodeau doesn’t understand how to balance playing time, but the evidence clearly shows that he was adapting to modern standards.