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
Elfrid Payton, New York Knicks (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks: Elfrid Payton has regressed late in the season

I’ve said earlier in the season that I don’t even mind Payton starting because of how great the duo of Rose and Quickley is off the bench – I just wanted him to play fewer minutes.

Thibodeau actually made that adjustment in April and reduced Payton’s minutes per game and started to hand Derrick Rose a bigger role. Rose took it and ran with it, and the adjustment of more-Rose, less-Payton improved the team.

A defense against changing the starting lineup I have also heard is the idea that teams don’t make adjustments in the playoffs.

Not true. You have to beat the same team 4 times, and you’re going to continuously learn what works and what doesn’t in your specific matchup as the series progresses.

We’re also not talking about a lineup change around RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Derrick Rose, Reggie Bullock, or anyone who has actually been instrumental to the team’s success. We’re talking about replacing a guy who sometimes brings the ball up the court and floats around. Teams make role player adjustments all of the time in the playoffs.

Payton was a part of that “physical tone-setting” that the Knicks get from the lineup of Randle, Noel, Barrett, and Bullock.

Now? He’s not a part of any “tone-setting” or “physicality”. He has been getting absolutely cooked on defense while being a complete non-factor as a scorer or as a facilitator.

He looks disengaged. It’s tough, he’s part of the team and everyone wants him to succeed. However, it’s gone beyond just being a “non-factor” – he’s a nuisance.

In his last 4 games, he’s had as many turnovers as points scored. In his last 6 games, opponents who are defended by Payton have shot 20.8% better than their average field goal percentage. They are shooting 66.7% from the field… you read that correctly.

We’re talking NBA playoffs now, not just forgettable stretches of regular-season games. Changes may have to be made.