NY Knicks: Can Tom Thibodeau and LaMelo Ball coexist?

Can Tom Thibodeau be the coach LaMelo Ball needs to become an NBA all-star and change the direction of the franchise?


The New York Knicks made a big step in their rebuild in hiring their new head coach Tom Thibodeau to a 5-year deal. Thibodeau brings something that recent Knicks coaches haven’t had—significant head coaching experience. The former Bulls and Timberwolves coach will look to establish his notorious philosophy with New York’s roster, but it will take some time until we get to see it on the court.

The Knicks missed out on the NBA’s return to play and won’t be back in action until the 2020-21 season. For now, the organization will focus their attention on the current roster, and potential improvements they can make in both free agency and the draft.

We still do not know exactly where the Knicks will be selecting until the draft lottery happens on August 25th. No matter where the team ends up picking, the rumors of LaMelo Ball to the Knicks will continue to swirl up until draft day.

While LaMelo Ball is the number one prospect on many draft boards, there have been rumors that he prefers to play for the Knicks. New York certainly has the assets to trade up in the draft, if the ping pong balls don’t put them in position to select Ball.

While the praise isn’t unanimous for the tall guard, there are qualities about him as a player – his size, athleticism, and other-worldly basketball IQ – that have some teams salivating at his potential as an NBA point guard. The Knicks needs to figure out their muddled point guard situation, and drafting LaMelo Ball could solve it overnight.

Of course, drafting Ball doesn’t just bring in a promising young guard, it brings in a media storm sparked by Ball’s outspoken father, LaVar Ball. LaMelo Ball’s brother and LaVar Ball’s oldest son, Lonzo Ball, played his first few seasons in the NBA with Los Angeles Lakers and was constantly surrounded by the noise his father would make off the court.

LaVar Ball never had any real say in the Lakers’ management of Lonzo, but his voice was constantly plastered all over the media. He would publicly criticize the Lakers’ front office and then-coach Luke Walton.

It’s scary thinking that the same blustering father would be a new headache added to a franchise notorious for having more off-the-court distractions than on-the-court success. You wonder if the Knicks’ new head coach Tom Thibodeau will have any patience for it.

Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach for the Knicks in the 90s, has carried the reputation as a no-nonsense coach who brings traditional values and teaching methods. So the question is: can the old-school Thibodeau coexist with LaMelo Ball and his 5.5 million Instagram followers?

Can Tom Thibodeau and LaMelo Ball coexist?

For some, I’m sure the idea of Tom Thibodeau and LaMelo Ball seems like water and oil. Toothpaste and orange juice. Andrea Bargnani and defense.

Personally, I believe Thibodeau is the exact kind of coach Ball needs. LaMelo, much like his brother Lonzo, seems to have unfairly garnered a reputation of someone who brings off-the-court distractions and celebrity status. These assumptions are, of course, a result of their father, and don’t necessarily give a fair portrayal of their character. Also, like his older brother, LaMelo seems to actually be a laid back and mature young man.

The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski, a beat writer for the Minnesota Timberwolves, recently said:

“Scouts I talk to have been encouraged by LaMelo’s maturity. He still has a lot of developing to do as a player, but I haven’t heard teams express the kind of concern about inviting the circus to town with him that many did when Lonzo was coming in.”

Does LaMelo need to improve his maturity on the court? Absolutely. Some of the major flaws in Ball’s game are poor shot selection and a lack of commitment on defense. Who better to help him gain more attention to detail than Tom Thibodeau?

LaMelo has now played overseas in multiple professional leagues despite just being 18 years old. Whatever you think of the competition he’s faced, he has had to go up against much stronger, experienced players.

There is little doubt in most scouts minds that LaMelo Ball can jump into the league and immediately become an elite playmaker. His ceiling will be dictated by his commitment to defense and improving his efficiency on offense.

If Ball were to land with the Knicks, playing time would not be an issue. The Knicks starting point guard spot has been a revolving door in recent years. He would be given every chance to play through his mistakes and grow as a player. Thibodeau has coached and developed some of the best players in the game, past, and present.

LaMelo Ball would be an exciting prospect to mold for any NBA coach. Between his size and quickness, Ball has all of the physical tools in the world to become an elite player. Ball’s weaknesses very much align with Thibodeau’s strengths as a coach.

Interestingly enough, in their own ways, both Ball and Thibodeau seem to have reputations as people who love the spotlight. However, those narratives seem to be more media-driven than truthful.

If the Knicks are able to acquire LaMelo Ball, they may just have the coach that can push him to become the franchise point guard they so desperately need.