There really isn’t a lot to say positively about the Knicks starting unit right now. They are statistically one of the worst lineups in the league, with a points minus opponent points per 100 possessions of -17.8. This is just inexcusable. For anyone that doesn’t understand the advanced stat I just threw out, let me simplify it for you: they stink.
Is There One Big Problem for These Knicks?
Here’s the thing about this rotation: You can’t fully blame any singular reason as to why they don’t play well together, but there have been some constants.
First, there’s no doubt that the loss of Reggie Bullock has hurt the lineup’s defensive prowess.
Evan Fournier has been a solid option and gives the offense much-needed spacing, don’t get me wrong. But the Frenchman’s defense has been lacking heavily. In fact, his defensive rating of 112.5 ranks as the 3rd worst on the team, with a minimum of 10 minutes per game played.
The second and most important is the subpar play of starting point guard Kemba Walker. When New York went out and acquired the veteran, not many people were too focused on the defensive repercussions the move would have because his name wasn’t Elfrid Payton. Also, Walker’s contract is reasonable, and the team had the money to sign him.
Although acquiring the former UConn star was a no-brainer, his game just hasn’t fit the needs of the Knicks. I’m not saying Kemba shouldn’t start (knowing Coach Thibs will likely give the starters more time to gel), but the players that have worked better in the offensive system and offer more on the other side of the ball should eat up more of his and Fournier’s time.
With Rose already getting his fair share of minutes, enter Immanuel Quickley.
Playing the Young Guard More
The Knicks play better when Immanuel Quickley is on the floor, period. This year, his combined +/- in all games is +86. This is third on the team to Obi Toppin and D-Rose, the latter of which has a +/- of 120 on the year, which ranks 7th in the NBA.
In his last few games, the second-year guard has shown flashes of being an elite shot- and play-maker. Yet, he still hasn’t gotten minutes with the team’s starters.
In fact, he’s played less than 30 minutes with RJ Barrett and less than 25 with Julius Randle this year. Last night against the Magic was actually one of the only times all 3 were on the court at the same time.
A quick fix to the inconsistency of the 5 in the starting unit could be to reshuffle lineups later in the game without giving the main bench guys any fewer minutes together as we saw against Orlando.
Tom Thibodeau’s reluctance to shake up his rotations has limited the options he has when either unit struggles. So, inserting Quickley in for Walker or Fournier a lot more if either is playing poorly can potentially be beneficial in multiple areas for the Knicks.
The most reasonable assumption for what New York will do is to keep the lineups the same, just as they did all of last year. However, unless the team’s starting backcourt figures it out, expect to see some changes in the future.