The New York Knicks may be watching the NBA playoffs from home but that doesn’t mean they can’t be learning from them. The NBA landscape is as exciting as ever, with no clear favorite to win the title and teams mixing in superstars in their primes, experienced playoff veterans, and rising young stars taking over games.
Aside from the younger franchise player-level guys like Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum taking their games to even greater heights, we’ve seen countless other players on rookie contracts playing major minutes.
Players like Jordan Poole, Tyler Herro, Desmond Bane, and Tyrese Maxey — all of whom were late-lottery to late-first-round picks. They’ve all received incremental increases in playing time and experience, only to become major playoff contributors.
The NBA playoffs should be a wake-up call for the New York Knicks
The “play the kids” vs. “trust the coach” debate has been a continuous one all year long in the Knicks community. So while this certainly still has to do with playing time last season, let’s make this more about next season, which will be Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin’s third year in the NBA.
Maximizing players on their rookie contracts is something that is always discussed in the NFL, and maybe it should be talked about more in the NBA — especially for younger, lower-level teams like New York.
Every career trajectory is different. In your rookie, and even your sophomore years, I have no issue with promising young players playing a small role. But if they’re showing clear starter potential by year three, you HAVE to find a way to get them major minutes.
What’s the point of keeping them on the bench when their next contract is coming up? Here are some of the minute per-game jumps from some of the NBA playoff performers mentioned earlier:
- Jordan Poole 2020-21 (Year 2) 19.4 Minutes Per Game — 2021-22 (Year 3) 30.0 Minutes Per Game
- Desmond Bane 2020-21 (Year 1) 22.3 Minutes Per Game — 2021-22 (Year 2) 29.8 Minutes Per Game
- Tyrese Maxey 2020-21 (Year 1) 15.3 Minutes Per Game — 2021-22 (Year 2) 35.3 Minutes Per Game
- Tyler Herro 2020-21 (Year 2) 30.3 Minutes Per Game — 2021-22 (Year 3) 32.6 Minutes Per Game
Here’s the thing: Quickley and Toppin could still be on the correct path in their player development. Despite all of the noise and complaints from fans, we can say one thing for sure: Both players improved from their rookie to sophomore seasons.
This has more to do with how critical this upcoming season is for these players than it does being salty about last season. The Knicks could have some key foundational young players on the team who need to be more involved next year, starting with the young guard who’s gotten praise from around the NBA, Quickley.