Heading into the 2022-23 season for the New York Knicks, a lot of talk will be about managing the structure of the roster. While there was speculation the Knicks and coach Tom Thibodeau might part ways last season, those speculations were put to rest back in March.
After a disappointing 21-45 record in 2019-20, the Knicks were looking to hire a new head man. They landed on the 62-year-old Thibodeau for a five-year deal. Knicks team president Leon Rose pointed to Thibodeau’s leadership and hard working mentality to justify the hire. As a head coach in Chicago and Minnesota, he showed he can win games. He came into New York with a 352-246 lifetime coaching record in the regular season.
In 2020-21, the Knicks were able to greatly outperform expectations in Thib’s first season. A 41-31 record was good enough to grant the Knicks the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013-14 but were overmatched by Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, losing the series in five games.
Last season saw the Knicks regress back to 37-45 and miss the playoffs. It was a weird roster. Guys were getting minutes they probably shouldn’t have, and the season was a mess.
Without going down a full rabbit hole of things that went wrong in 2021-22, here are three things coach Thibodeau can do better in 2022-23:
1. Out with the old, in with the new
Last season, the Knicks seemed unsure of the direction they wanted to go. For a 64-year-old head coach, the focus would be to win now and establish your team with guys who have been in the league — older players that have seen it, done it, understand the flows of the game, and will often times be the safer options.
With the Knicks coming off the playoff berth in 2020-21, the strategy was to run back what worked.
This resulted in older players getting more minutes while the younger players sat on the bench. As long as the Knicks were winning games, all was good. The problem is, after being 22-22 a little halfway through the season, they started to tail off and the record dropped. In an extremely competitive Eastern Conference, it was pretty clear the Knicks wouldn’t reach the teams in front of them.
Evan Fournier (29), Alec Burks (30), Kemba Walker (31), and Taj Gibson (36), were players on the Knicks that saw more minutes than fans probably would’ve liked. It’s not to take away from those four players, it just would have been nice to see the younger players get more of a spotlight.
What could help the Knicks improve this season is allocating those minutes to the younger players. Obi Toppin (24), Immanuel Quickley (23), Cam Reddish (23), Jericho Sims (23), Quentin Grimes (22), and Miles Mcbride (22), should all be in line to see more minutes this season.
The key word is “should”. The Knicks should see what their young players can bring, but it is unknown how it will play out. The Knicks still have 33-year-old Derrick Rose and 29-year-old Evan Fournier on the roster, who will certainly both see major minutes to start the season. If things are not clicking, the Knicks should use the season to really evaluate what they have.