In his introductory press conference, Thibodeau expressed optimism about youngsters RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson (quotes per Marc Berman of the New York Post).
“I want to get around the players to work with them and get to know them better,” Thibodeau said. “Based on film, I really think RJ has a very bright future as does Mitchell Robinson. Those are two who stand out. But we have a lot of young talent. I don’t like to make qualifications on people until I get around them.”
The Knicks selected Barrett with the third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke University. Across 56 games, 55 of which were starts in his rookie season the wing averaged 14.3 points, five rebounds, 2.6 assists, and one steal per game. Robinson, who the Knicks selected with the 36th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, averaged 9.7 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game while shooting an NBA-record 74.2 percent from the field last season.
Thibodeau feels that Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, who are each former first-round draft picks of the organization, are “young guys that have talent.”
“With Frank and Kevin, they’re both young guys that have talent,” Thibodeau said. “That being said, I’m not making any real observations until I get to be around them. Like most young players, there are growing pains you go through and there’s steps players have to take. Sometimes we measure guys against guys already established and you forget the steps those guys have to take to get to where they are. It’s an important part of it. Understand how you get there is work, sacrifice and commitment. One’s determination and perseverance is critical to their development.”
Ntilikina and Knox have been in and out of the Knicks starting lineup over their respective NBA careers. For his career, Ntilikina is averaging six points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game, whereas Knox is averaging 9.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Thibodeau is the 31st head coach in franchise history. He takes over after the team fired David Fizdale in December 2019 and finished the season with interim Mike Miller. President Steve Mills was fired in February and replaced by former agent Leon Rose.
Under Rose, the Knicks have made a slew of front-office maneuvers which include hiring William Wesley (executive vice president/senior basketball advisor) and Walt Perrin (assistant general manager) and retaining Scott Perry as general manager.