Knicks: Predicting how Tom Thibodeau will distribute playing time

Tom Thibodaeu, Knicks Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Thibodaeu, Knicks Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) gets fouled by Detroit Pistons forward Mason Plumlee (24) during the first quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Knicks Minutes Prediction: Top of the Rotation

1)  Julius Randle

While Thibs has usually reserved the highest minutes per game average for small forwards or guards, it’s hard to see anyone else wrestling the top spot away from Randle. He’s the highest paid player on the team, by far, and the only consistent threat to score 20 points per game. His defense might not be exactly what Thibodeau is looking for, but the new coach should be able to surround Randle with other viable defensive pieces so he’s not consistently exposed.

2) R.J. Barrett

It might be hard to envision Barrett playing the second most minutes on the team (and averaging close to 36 minutes per game), after being somewhat of a complementary piece last season, but the Knicks have got to find out what they have with the former third overall pick in the 2019 Draft. Even though he was drafted by the previous regime, Team president Leon Rose and the coaching staff need to assess what Barrett projects to be moving forward, and it’s hard to imagine him not being in the top three in average minutes played if for no other reason than to get an extended sample size of work. Barrett (somewhat surprisingly) did average 30 minutes per game last season, so some additional playing time should not add too much wear and tear.

3) Frank Ntilikina

If Ntilikina’s offensive skills were even just a bit more polished, there would be a great case to be made for him to be second or first overall in average minutes on this team this season. With his already menacing lateral quickness and tenacity on the perimeter, the French Prince figures to be one of Thibodeau’s favorite weapons to deploy this season, as New York’s modern version of what Ronnie Brewer used to be for the Chicago Bulls. If he can demonstrate an improved scoring touch and respectable three point shooting ability, perhaps he can leap into the second position.