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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Mar 2, 2020; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) goes in for a dunk over Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

Most likely to thrive under Thibodeau: Mitchell Robinson

Mitchell Robinson’s development may be the most fascinating and most important storyline of the Knicks 2020-21 season, whenever it gets here. In Chicago, coach Thibodeau deployed Carlos Boozer, Gibson and J-o-a-k-i-m N-o-a-h (it’s still too soon to utter his full name) as a rugged, formidable trio in the paint. You can feel free to revert back to the prior slide to review Gibson’s comments on the impact the coach had on his career.

It’s unlikely that the Knicks will have a frontline quite like the early 2010’s Bulls teams, and that’s ok, because the league has changed significantly since then. Very few teams are playing a traditional power forward and center who don’t have three-point shooting ability, so having one large lynchpin anchor the paint will be more than satisfactory.

What makes the Thibodeau-Robinson dynamic so interesting is that the former Timberwolves head honcho had a chance to mold Karl-Anthony Towns into an average defensive player at the very least, and it didn’t work out.

They say (they being the wise old men at the bocce ball courts) that experience is the greatest teacher, and whether the Towns relationship didn’t work because of KAT’s lack of work ethic, or Thibodeau’s overly abrasive approach, we might never know. But one thing is for certain: Thibodeau knows the eyes of the league are closely observing how he can bounce back from that black mark on his resume, and should be cognizant of communicating his wishes in a more receptive way.

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Mitchell Robinson certainly looks the part from a physical standpoint, but previous coaching staffs refused to fully unleash him, even when the team was out of playoff contention. David Fizdale and Mike Miller routinely started and played Gibson ahead of Robinson, and Thibs may very well start the year doing that as well, but the ratio of minutes should swing towards Mitch’s favor this campaign.