PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: Josh Hart
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
Based on his performance throughout last season and his expectation-shattering playoff run, New York should build their offense around Jalen Brunson as they wait for the next star to demand a trade.
Given that sentiment, this closing lineup would accentuate his strengths and hide his weaknesses more than almost any other.
Grimes and Hart are both terrific individual defenders, able to take on tougher assignments to ensure that Brunson won’t be hunted by opposing point guards. Robinson is also a top-ten shot-blocker, deterring any driving opponents if they were to beat the point guard off the dribble.
On the offensive end, the two wings don’t have as high a usage rate as Quickley and Barrett. In other words, this allows Brunson to have even more chances to operate as the team’s highest-scoring clutch performer.
Grimes’ ability to weave through screens and fire away threes helps keep defenses occupied despite not having the ball in his hands, while Hart’s quick decision-making as a passer results in easy buckets.
In fact, 11% of Hart’s passes turned into assists last season, the highest mark on the team.
As for Randle, he would similarly benefit from the intangibles that a Grimes/Hart wing duo offers. He wouldn’t need to overextend himself as both a facilitator and post-scorer, hopefully cutting down on his team-leading 2.8 turnovers per game last year.
This five-man group only spent 14 total minutes on the court, but the results were extremely promising despite the small sample size. They produced an astronomically high 45.7 net rating, completely annihilating opponents.
While this obviously wouldn’t have held up if they spent more time on the floor together, it’s still intriguing enough that Thibodeau should make it his go-to lineup at the end of close games.