Is Knicks’ HC Tom Thibodeau overusing his players?

NBA: Utah Jazz at New York Knicks
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the New York Knicks missing several key players due to injuries, head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation is thinner than it has ever been, forcing some players to play a significantly larger amount of minutes.

Since the Knicks lost All-Star Julius Randle and defensive menace OG Anunoby to injuries on Jan. 27, two Knicks players are in the top three for total minutes played over that span: F Josh Hart (560 minutes) and F Precious Achiuwa (537 minutes), per StatMuse. Hart is one of just two players averaging at least 40 minutes per game over that stretch, with the other being Bulls G DeMar DeRozan.

G Donte DiVincenzo has also seen an increase in minutes with the injuries to the roster, averaging 38 minutes per contest in his last 13 games, the fifth most in the NBA.

Josh Hart expressed frustration over the recent stretch

In Thursday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, Hart sat on the bench for a total of 50 seconds. He logged in 14 points, 18 rebounds, and seven assists, but struggled with his efficiency, shooting just 4-17 from the field.

The Knicks have now lost eight of their last 11 games and find themselves just one game ahead of the eight-seeded Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings and in danger of falling into the play-in.

After the loss to the Warriors on Thursday, Hart expressed frustration with the perception around the team’s recent stretch of play:

“I’m not sure what you all expect or what you all think,” said Hart via the New York Post. “We are playing as best as we can with the bodies that we have. We have guys like [OG Anunoby], [Julius Randle], [Mitchell Robinson], who’ve been out for a long time. We’re playing our asses off. It’s not like we’re just sitting there and crying about injuries and lying down.”

The shorthanded roster is the reason for the increase in players’ minutes

The lengthy minutes given to many Knicks players are a direct result of the shorthanded roster, having played multiple games over the past month with eight available players or less, which is not the fault of Thibodeau. The main concern with this is that, by the time the team returns to full strength, many of the players could be worn out and fatigued from the extensive playing time, rendering them less effective in the postseason.

The silver lining is that when the Knicks are at full strength, they will have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, which will ultimately take a considerable amount of pressure off some players to play a large chunk of minutes. Perhaps there is a chance that some guys will sit games for load management towards the end of the regular season, and if they clinch their seeding for the playoffs soon enough, that will allow for more available rest opportunities.

It is still unclear when the Knicks will be healthy again

However, there is still a lot of uncertainty around when the Knicks will be getting their main pieces back.

There is still no clear timetable for either Randle or Anunoby’s returns. Anunoby was cleared to do basketball activities earlier this week but still has to be cleared for contact before returning to games. No major updates have come for Mitchell Robinson since the All-Star break, but the hope is that he can return by the end of March and be ready for the postseason.

With the Knicks in a rut thanks to the injuries, Thibodeau could possibly make some adjustments to the rotation to give certain guys a break and others an opportunity to provide a positive impact. However, nothing is conclusive at this moment, and either way, the Knicks will still have to play incredibly shorthanded for the foreseeable future.

The Knicks will look to get back in the win column with another difficult matchup on Sunday, taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

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