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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Sep 12, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers (25) reacts in the first half of game five of the second round against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Knicks Minutes Prediction: Middle of the Rotation

4) Austin Rivers

This might seem a little high on the totem pole for Doc’s son, but Thibodeau has not been one to play an entire rotation full of rookies and young players, so there figures to be a beloved veteran mixed in here somewhere. Rivers has the ability to be a facilitator on offense by bringing the ball up the floor, and has been a part of many successful playoff teams in his career, which can be looked upon favorably by the coaching staff. He hasn’t played a leading offensive role in a few years (especially while being deployed as a stand-still shooter with the Houston Rockets), but he has the ability to be a viable combo guard at 28-years-old. He’s not great at any one skill, but he doesn’t hurt you anywhere either, and that versatility is sorely needed on the Knicks right now.

5) Mitchell Robinson

In a perfect world, Robinson would be much higher on this list. He would be getting the bulk of the playing time at center, given the opportunity to play through mistakes, and develop into the rim protecting force that is at the apex of his potential. Unfortunately, there are a couple of factors working against him being fully unleashed. He will first need to avoid cheap fouls, while using his 7’4” wingspan to intimidate and cut off penetrating guards and forwards. He’ll also need to fully earn the trust of the coaching staff, which is well within the realm of possibility, but will be one of those “need to see it to believe it” type of confirmations.

6) Nerlens Noel

As much of a hindrance as it is would be to Robinson’s development to have a backup big man eat into his minutes, it would be surprising for coach Thibodeau to not deploy a third big man in his rotation (over and above Randle and Robinson). Thibodeau played Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson quite a bit in Chicago, and deployed Karl Anthony-Towns, Gibson, and Gorgei Dieng for big minutes in Minnesota as well, which would seem to signal that Nerlens Noel is going to get a real opportunity to play this season. Thibodeau actually brought up Noel when asked about Robinson during Knicks Media Day, which might tip his hand on his plans for the former Kentucky Wildcat.