NY Knicks: Tom Thibodeau explains lack of “small-ball” lineups

Obi Toppin, New York Knicks. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

NY Knicks training camp is here and we’re already getting into the nitty-gritty of how this roster is going to shake out. Not just the personnel, but the rotations, schemes, and plans for improvement in 2021-22.

Tom Thibodeau and the players have gotten their first chance to talk to the media about the current state of the team, what the offseason has been like, and what they’re looking forward to in the upcoming season.

NY Knicks: Tom Thibodeau addresses “small-ball” lineups

When talking to the media, SNY reporter Ian Begley asked coach Thibodeau about the idea of playing Obi Topping and Julius Randle together in a small lineup. Coach had this response.

“We’ll get a look at it. It wasn’t very effective last year… the rim protection is a big thing.”

For those who watched a lot of NY Knicks basketball last year, they saw just how much Tom Thibodeau emphasizes his centers having an important role as a rim protector. When Mitchell Robinson went down with an injury, we saw Nerlens Noel step into the starter role with Taj Gibson seeing increased minutes.

When Noel missed some games, the team brought on Norvell Pelle as the backup center. There was never any real experimentation with Toppin and Randle at center despite the injuries to the frontcourt.

What Tom Thibodeau did note is that “Obi Toppin is a lot better than he was last year.. we’ll see how it unfolds.”

On one hand, I think fans know that the Knicks need to get more creative on offense. With Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier now in the mix, this team now has more playmaking talent.

On the other hand, I tend to lean on the idea that Toppin’s versatility may be in the form of the small forward position than it does at center.

Toppin had his struggles defensively last season, but when he did flash some defense, it was on the perimeter. Toppin has the length and athleticism to recover on the perimeter. I’m not so sure he has the right frame to bang down low with NBA centers.

At the end of the day, with Robinson, Noel, and Gibson on the roster, I have a hard time believing Tom Thibodeau won’t lean on those guys in favor of experimenting with Toppin/Randle small ball.

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