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 guard Elfrid Payton (6) yells out as he dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Knicks Minutes Prediction: Back of the Rotation

7) Elfrid Payton

While Payton’s upside isn’t as high as that of a Ntilikina or a Dennis Smith Jr., coach Thibodeau may find the Scott Perry favorite the most reliable as an offensive facilitator. He doesn’t bring much in the way of outside shooting, but is a solid option as a pass-first point guard, and has excelled in the steals department throughout his career. He’ll need to be in the mix since Ntilikina is not yet a playmaking guard at this point of his career, and forcing Rivers to assume that role full-time may be a lot to ask.

8) Dennis Smith Jr.

Smith is still only going into his fourth NBA season, and provides potential athleticism that none of the other guards can match. His presence on the team with a new coaching staff can be taken a couple of different ways. He might get the fresh start that he sorely needs after a rough injury-plagued campaign last season. Or, Thibodeau might view Smith’s erratic play  as detrimental to the team (just the way Rick Carlisle chose to ship Smith out of town in order to funnel more touches to cornerstone young players).

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Either way, it seems like there’s a decent chance Smith will at least get a chance to show he’s turned a corner, but could be unseated by the likes of Alec Burks, Reggie Bullock, or Immanuel Quickley if he doesn’t get off to a good start.