The New York Knicks are off to a good start to the 2023-24 NBA season, and head coach Tom Thibodeau appears to have his rotation locked and loaded. But despite the strong play and Thibodeau's preference for leaning on his veterans, are there young players in New York who deserve more playing time moving forward?
It's a tricky topic to handle. The Knicks are in win-now mode with the current roster. While there could be changes on the way before the trade deadline, it makes sense that Thibodeau would ride his best players and lean on them for heavy minutes. Does Julius Randle need to play over 35 minutes a game, or could he be more effective in shorter bursts with a lighter workload? It's difficult to say for sure, but the young Knicks player who needs to get more playing time is fairly easy to identify.
Immanuel Quickley needs more playing time for the Knicks to be their best
So long as Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are playing major minutes, the Knicks are going to be frustratingly inconsistent. While Immanuel Quickley is a guard and Randle and Barrett are forwards, it would be interesting to see the Knicks go smaller more frequently — especially since Josh Hart can rebound like a power forward and Mitchell Robinson can stay on rim protection duty.
Quickley has made the most of his 6th man role, but the Knicks are so much more dangerous offensively when he's playing heavy minutes with the starters. Quickley only averages 24 minutes a night, however, and often gives way to Barrett instead of playing major fourth-quarter minutes.
Tom Thibodeau would be wise to reevaluate that decision. In 120 possessions played this season, New York's fourth-most used 5-man lineup of Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Josh Hart, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson is a whopping +30.0 in net differential, which is a 99th percentile lineup in the NBA so far this season, according to Cleaning The Glass. That group is unreal offensively, averaging 133.3 points per 100 possessions while completely dominating the glass (40.7 OREB%, and 12.3 OREB% allowed).
Although the sample size is small, it's been New York's best lineup, and one of the best 5-man lineups in the entire NBA, by a huge margin.
Quickley's ability to get in the paint and score from all three levels is a huge part of that. The concern with Quickley, who is in his fourth NBA season, is that he's gotten typecasted into a role that he's outgrown. On many nights he's the better option than Barrett or Randle, but very rarely does he get the nod over either of those players when it matters most.
Quickley has shown he can lead a second unit and provide instant offense, but he should be given more opportunities during the regular season to play with the starters and find his groove. The Knicks are 7th in net efficiency so far this season, so major changes aren't necessary, but for Quickley's development as a complete player, feeding him more minutes should pay major dividends for the Knicks down the stretch.
There will be games where Julius Randle can't be relied upon offensively, and the Knicks will need someone other than Jalen Brunson to create his own offense. Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes are terrific ballhandlers, but they aren't creators. RJ Barrett is improving in that regard, but he has a long way to go. Quickley is a certified bucket, and is instant offense in the pick-and-roll. Tom Thibodeau has come a long way in making defensive sacrifices for the good of the offense, and putting Quickley with Brunson is the next step to take the Knicks' scoring attack to a whole different level moving forward.