The 1 rotation move Tom Thibodeau must consider when Knicks are healthy

Tom Thibodeau needs to keep this guard in the rotation.

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Tom Thibodeau will have a tough decision to make when the New York Knicks are healthy again. He runs a tight nine-man rotation, one that will exclude a couple of faces in the current rotation. Miles McBride, who signed an extension after the Immanuel Quickley trade, could be one of the odd men out.

On Tuesday, New York signed guard Shake Milton to a deal for the rest of the season. He's a depth piece, so he won't be a regular face in the rotation. McBride won't have to worry about competing for Milton for minutes unless there's a drastic change. Someone McBride will have to compete with Alec Burks, who the Knicks traded for ahead of the deadline.

Burks has struggled since the trade, averaging 8.7 points and less than an assist per game on 32.3% shooting from the field and 29.8% from deep. His plus-minus is -53. During that same span, McBride is averaging 8.6 points and 2.6 assists per game, shooting 50.8% from the field and 25.3% from three.

Should Tom Thibodeau keep Miles McBride or Alec Burks in Knicks rotation?

Burks has more experience running an offense than McBride, which is a big part of why the Knicks traded for him. However, McBride has been the more impactful player by a landslide.

McBride has been a pesky defender since he entered the league in 2021, and his shooting has started to catch up (subscription required). Last season, he shot 35.8% from the field and 29.9% from three per game across 64 contests. This season, he's shooting 43.3% from the field and 39.5% from deep per game across 49 contests.

"I think you first have to do it in practice and then be able to transfer it over into games,” Thibodeau said. “But I think the one thing it does, is it forces concentration. And so, usually in time if a guy puts the work in and the concentration is there, the progress will come. … He’s put a lot of time in."

Thibs on Deuce's shooting, The Athletic

Another reason New York traded for Burks is so he could help make up for the hole off the bench left Quickley. Burks' first month as a Knick doesn't mean this is how the rest of the season will look, but he hasn't lived up to expectations. Instead, it's been McBride who has stepped up on both ends.

When Jalen Brunson got injured less than a minute into Sunday's game against Cleveland, McBride subbed in and didn't sub back out. He finished with 16 points (6-of-15 from the field, 4-of-9 from three), five assists, and one rebound in 47 minutes. Let's not forget that he was also guarding Darius Garland, the Cavaliers' main offense threat, with Donovan Mitchell sidelined.

When New York is finally healthy again, Thibodeau must strongly consider keeping McBride in the rotation, even if it means removing Burks. That doesn't mean Burks shouldn't be cast entirely to the side, but McBride is the more impactful player. He's part of the Knicks' future, while Burks will be an unrestricted free agent over the summer. Keeping Duece in the rotation should be a no-brainer move!

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