Knicks: Top 5 players most likely to thrive under Tom Thibodeau

Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /
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Feb 24, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox II (20) handles the ball against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports /

Most likely to thrive under Thibodeau: Kevin Knox

Kevin Knox’s name has been among the most popular in trade circles, so it’s quite possible he may not be on the roster whenever the next season begins. He’s also not exactly the first person that comes to mind when considering the above criteria.

But he’s athletic, with a 6’11” wingspan, and he has the physical tools to become a viable defender in this league. We’ve seen evidence of his anticipation and athleticism on the glass and with poster dunks—the challenge for Thibs will be to get him to use that raw ability to get in the passing lane and help the helper.

For what it’s worth, Knox’s defensive development is one of the top priorities on his own to do list. He was quoted last season in acknowledging that he spent the prior summer (before last season) focusing on improvement on that end of the floor. As someone who appears to honestly self-assess his game, the young forward probably realizes that his offensive game, while promising, does not provide enough stand-alone value for him to earn big minutes by only contributing on one end of the floor.

There’s reason for optimism, though. In the clip above (strangely most of these are against Cleveland, so we’ll take it for what it’s worth), Knox effectively moves his feet against Cedi Osman on the perimeter. No one is mistaking Osman for the Turkish Kevin Durant, but he is the type of player Knox will find himself matched up with consistently, which is to say, a versatile swingman with enough ball-handling ability to get into the paint.

Unless there’s an elevated or unplanned amount of switching going on next season, Knox should never consistently have to find himself trying to stay in front of lightning quick guards. As long he can contain players who are of the same height and athletic build as he is, Knox should no longer be a liability on the defense end, especially with Thibs’ emphasis and tutelage.