NY Knicks: How Should They Handle Alec Burks’ Absence?

Alec Burks, New York Knicks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alec Burks, New York Knicks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The NY Knicks beat the New Orleans Pelicans 122-112 on Sunday, continuing to roll for their sixth straight win. However, their last two games have been bittersweet, as Alec Burks has been out due to health and safety protocols. While the team has yet to announce Burks’ status going forward, Coach Tom Thibodeau declined to comment on whether or not Burks flew back with the Knicks from Dallas. Thibodeau said that Burks is “following protocols” which the NY Post’s Marc Berman points out is most likely code for being out 10 days.

While the Knicks have been lucky with Health and Safety Protocols this season unlike teams like the Miami Heat, point guard Derrick Rose previously missed three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.  Rose’s diagnosis was not announced until after he recovered and finished his isolation period.

Burks has become a spark off the bench, particularly in the fourth quarter. Per Newsday, Burks ranks fourth in the league percentage of points scored in the fourth quarter at 34% (Immanuel Quickley is first at 39%). In the last month, Burks has the second-most points scored in the fourth quarter in the league with 95. Burks’ clutch play will be missed, but New York can make up for it.

NY Knicks: What is the game plan without Alec Burks?

The most likely solution in Burks’ absence is a go-to of Tom Thibiedeou’s: relying on your stars. Tom Thibodeau is not afraid to ask a lot of his starting five. Julius Randle leads the NBA with 2084 minutes, averaging 37.4.

RJ Barrett is no stranger to carrying a large workload as well, as he ranks third with 1942 minutes.  While Barrett is averaging 34.1 minutes per game, he’s played 40 minutes or more in 12 games this season. Barrett continues to prove himself in the clutch, as Stephen Samra wrote about last week. Similarly, Reggie Bullock’s sharpshooting is make-or-break for the NY Knicks. After Barrett had fouled out against the Pelicans, Bullock hit a game-tying three off of a heady Rose kick out to send the game into overtime. While Burks is shooting 40.3% from three this season, Bullock sits at 40.1%.

Sunday’s game against the Pelicans was also a good preview of what New York will do when Barrett and Bullock must inevitably rest, as Bullock also fouled out. Kevin Knox was on the court for six minutes, shooting 1-3 from three. He was previously out of the rotation and relegated to garbage time.  He also had a miscommunication with Julius Randle, leaving Zion Williamson open for an alley-oop from Lonzo Ball. While Knox’s defense is second-rate, he is an exponentially better shooter than Obi Toppin. I’ve been hoping he’d see some time as a stretch four. He’ll be far from a staple in their offense going forward, but he’ll certainly see some more time. The NY Knicks ran a Rose / Quickley / Bullock / Knox / Randle lineup on offense as the fourth quarter was ending.

Expect to see more Derrick Rose as well, as he scored 23 points in 35 minutes on Sunday.  Like Burks, the veteran Rose is not afraid of the spotlight.  Rose is famously a favorite of Thibs and the team is 15-7 when he plays.

New York’s starters are going to carry even more responsibility as Burks sits.  And while he’ll most likely be back in time for the playoffs, this team has proven that they’re up to the challenge.