New York Knicks: Go Burks or Go Home

Alec Burks, New York Knicks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alec Burks, New York Knicks. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /
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Derrick Rose, Knicks.: Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports /

Why the Knicks Should “Demote” Derrick Rose

When researching this premise, I lost myself down the rabbit hole that is the Basketball-Reference “lineups” feature. And just as interesting as how well Burks has played with key starters is the extent to which Rose has thrived without them:

  • Rose’s two best 5-man lineups do not include Randle and do include Quickly and Toppin; 5 of Rose’s Top 7 four-man combinations – again including the two best – do not include Randle.
  • Toppin’s best 5-man combo includes Rose. So does his best 2-man combo.
  • Quickley’s best 5-man combo includes Rose. So does his best 2-man combo.
  • I’ve been pushing for Thibs to bench Nerlens Noel for the remainder of the series, especially if he’s unhealthy, but if he must play, playing with a Rose-led second unit should help. Just like Toppin and Quickley, Noel’s best 2-man combo includes Rose.

(And if Thibs was finally inclined to go small like he should, my recommendation would be to add Ntilikina to the rotation. Frank doesn’t have many positive 5-man lineups from the regular season, but the best one – by far – included Rose. Similarly, one of his few positive 2-man pairings includes Rose.)

Numbers aside, the logic is simple: Randle’s at his best when the offense runs through him. Barrett’s at his best when he gets more than spot-up opportunities. And Rose is at his best when he commands his own unit. “Demoting” Rose theoretically helps each of the Knicks’ three most valuable players.

Leading the reserves, likely matched with Lou Williams, with no Clint Capela in the paint, Rose can continue his dominant run. You lose absolutely none of his scoring with this move while simultaneously gaining a point guard – a true point guard – that can help the young guys, particularly Quickley, up theirs.

Post-Rose trade, Quickley shot almost 42% from 3. While his scoring dipped (not surprising, since Rose is a scorer), he benefited immensely from Derrick’s presence. The Knicks need that benefit ASAP, as IQ’s shot only 22% so far in this series. Getting IQ going alone could turn this offense around.

Conversely, Toppin’s been excellent, but he could be even better with Rose. I mean, Rose is less likely to miss him when he’s wide open; Rose is more likely to push in transition, where Obi thrives; and Rose seems to be the only guard on the team consistently looking for the roll man in PnR. The Knicks don’t use Toppin enough as the roller, but the few times they do, Rose will make those opportunities count.

(Or Thibs could just GO SMALL with Obi at C, and he could dunk the Hawks into oblivion courtesy of those jumping, two-hand, overhead, look-off-the-corner darts from Rose. This is my dream…)

The starting lineup doesn’t need a true point guard. This move puts the ball back in Randle’s and Barrett’s hands, with the hope that Burks either gives them more room to operate or gets hot off the ball when the defense collapses.

The reserves do need a true point guard. This move returns Rose, who’s been the Knicks’ best post-season player no matter where you put him, to the role that made him a Sixth Man of the Year finalist, and the hope is that his presence helps the Knicks’ bench get back to the level that made them one of the most feared units in the league all season long.

There’s another word that signals uncertainty. Hope.

Because I don’t know, all I can do is hope. That something clicks. That a shakeup gets guys going. That this last-ditch effort can give the team enough juice to keep this magical season alive, if only for one more game.

Next. Knicks Mock Draft 1.0. dark