Are the New York Knicks planning a secret starting lineup change?

Frank Ntilikina, Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Ntilikina, Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Knicks
Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

As the New York Knicks prepare for their first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, they have a big question that doesn’t need any sort of intricate framing: Why is Elfrid Payton still starting?

I understand there has already been so much written about this, but I want to just quickly address the bizarre, hollow arguments about how his role on the team is some sort of essential part of the Knicks’ newfound success.

This idea that because the New York Knicks are winning, if they move Payton out of the starting lineup, the entire ship will sink.

We will lose our “bulldog mentality” and Randle will regress and RJ Barrett won’t be a shooter and we will lose our draft picks and everything will be ruined! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! We’re a team! Big-15! If we take Payton out of the starting lineup we will lose all of that chemistry! Anyways…

New York Knicks: What Elfrid Payton brings

I’ve been trying to figure out the actual basketball justifications as to why Elfrid Payton has a significant role for a while now. What I typically land on is the fact that he’s a “physical” player.

He’s in the starting lineup because Tom Thibodeau wants his team to set the tone for the game early. From an even more basketball-skills standpoint, Payton likes to go to the rim, which I believe is something Thibodeau values in his point guard. He wants his point guard to slash.

So while Payton’s net impact has been negative all season long, the team was still doing well.

However, his play has actually diminished to a dangerous place where it’s been a direct cause of offensive droughts and suspect defense.

When the Knicks win, it’s easy to forget the long periods of ineptitude when he’s on the floor. Those long stretches are going to catch up with the Knicks in the playoffs if something doesn’t change soon.