The New York Knicks’ player development approach might be different under Tom Thibodeau.
Tom Thibodeau was officially named head coach of the New York Knicks this week, and hopefully, he will hold the role longer than the team’s previous bench lead. After firing David Fizdale just 22 games into his second season of a five-year contract, owner James Dolan is doling out another massive paycheck for Thibodeau to man the sidelines until 2025—if all things go well.
While there was all of the expected platitudes from Thibodeau during his introductory press conference – the only difference from previous pressers being the Zoom presentation – there was one point that stuck out and could be important in thinking about how the new front office under recently-hired president Leon Rose will approach player development.
Tom Thibodeau believes it’s important to develop players using the G-League.
Thibodeau revealed in his introductory press conference that the Knicks will utilize the G-League next season in order to develop their young players.
“I think game-time is important,’’ Thibodeau said. “So if a young player is not getting the appropriate amount of time to develop, we’ll utilize the G-League. That’s become an important part of our league. We’ll certainly take advantage of that.’’
This is a shift in the organization’s approach under Steve Mills and Scott Perry. As much as fans clamored to see the team utilize Westchester to keep young players sharp, especially those who found themselves buried on the bench on most nights, the previous regime failed to take full advantage of the developmental league.
However, it wasn’t from a lack of trying by former player development executive Craig Robinson.
According to a recent New York Post report, Robinson, who has since left the organization, “lobbied to have the Knicks’ top prospects who weren’t getting enough NBA time to spend a few games in the G-League to gain rhythm and grow confidence.”
General Manager Scott Perry reportedly rejected this idea, “feeling it would be perceived as too big a demotion and felt practice time as well as being around NBA coaches was more vital.”
What’s troubling about this news is hearing the push against using the G-League might have come from the man who was retained from the previous front office in a key role. Whether current GM Perry and recently-fired team president Mills had the same thinking about how to best develop their young players is unknown.
To be fair, Mills/Perry did have some success in using their G-League affiliate to foster NBA players, with five players during the 2017-18 season passing through Westchester before signing NBA deals. However, none of those players have turned into long-term pieces within the organization, as only Kenny Wooten is still on the roster.
The Knicks have been reluctant to let their blue chip prospects, such as Mitchell Robinson or Frank Ntilikina, find playing time outside of the NBA.
Knicks to add player-development coaches to Thibodeau’s staff?
Adding to Thibodeau’s comments, a report by SNY this week says the Knicks are considering hiring a “significant number of player-development coaches,” which would be “in addition” to the assistants on Thibodeau’s staff.
While the NBA salary cap prevents the Knicks from using their financial muscle to outspend teams on the court, this is an obvious area where the Knicks can attract the best and the brightest to help develop their players off the court.
Combined with a potential new approach towards using the G-League, this is all welcome news to Knicks fans who have been patiently waiting to see if the organization can turn their prized lottery picks into NBA stars.