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
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks: Could Frank Ntilikina take on Payton’s small role?

Putting Frank Ntilikina into the starting lineup to take over Elfrid Payton’s role, a role that is already so minimal in its’ responsibilities, makes sense.

Having Ntilikina out there as a spot-up shooter for the first few minutes of the first and third quarters would tremendously help the spacing of the first unit. It gives Julius Randle another shooter kick-out option.

Ntilikina has actually been a tremendous catch-and-shooter in his limited action this season. He shoots a whopping 48.6% on catch-and-shoot threes. Especially over the last month, he’s looked ready to step in at any point in the game.

Payton is not a better defender than Ntilikina. Maybe he has more “experience” but in no way can he be as impactful on defense as Ntilikina. The Knicks are going to need tough defense from their backcourt against Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanović.

Between Ntilikina’s active hands, wingspan, and ability to actually rotate and not be a mismatch against taller opponents, Ntilikina can make plays on defense that are simply out of the realm of possibility for Payton.

Ntilikina may still have the stink of being a draft bust and not living up to the “point guard of the future” expectations, but in a limited role, he can make an impact. He’s out there for 3-and-D.

I think Rose and Quickley off the bench together is most effective and that seems to be what Thibodeau believes as well. They provide a finesse scoring punch that can be overwhelming for opposing 2nd units.

Rose still plays his big minutes in the 4th, but Ntilikina can come out to start the halves and bring that defense and tone-setting.

I would love nothing more than for Elfrid Payton to come out in Game 1 and prove me and so many others wrong. I would love to see him play within his capabilities, play solid defense on the Hawks backcourt and have a net-positive impact on the game.

It would be a welcome change from aimlessly attacking the basket with the ball and having his hands on his hips while parked in the corner without the ball. The Knicks have been playing 4-on-5 with him on the floor this past week and it’s unacceptable.

I will take the more cautious prediction in that Thibodeau isn’t going to do anything for game 1.

However, if there is zero change to Elfrid Payton’s recent play, I fully expect there to be a change in game 2.

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