The New York Knicks are struggling a bit after getting off to a hot start and their starting lineup is a big reason why that’s the.
Signing both Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier looked good on paper, but it doesn’t seem like either of them have factored too much into the Knicks’ early success, at least when you look at the +/- them and the rest of the starters are putting up together. Coach Tom Thibodeau has acknowledged that he may be forced to make some changes, but nothing has come into fruition so far.
The reality is that he doesn’t have a ton of options to go for. Moving Fournier to the bench doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the massive contract he just signed, and that leaves swapping Walker and Rose as the only viable option, but things might not be as simple as that.
There has been some success playing Obi Toppin alongside Julius Randle, but that lineup doesn’t get used a lot. There are some fans who think Toppin deserves more playing time, but that just hasn’t happened yet.
Thibodeau has his reasons for that.
When Thibodeau was asked about the possibility of Toppin getting more minutes with the team, he said it’s not exactly as it seems, and it might not even be Toppin’s fault.
“It’s all based on performance,” Thibs said via SNY. “It’s not an individual thing. It’s a team thing. It’s how the team is functioning and there has to be a balance to offense and defense. That factors into it as well.”
So, it’s not neccesarily based on how how the youngster is performing, which is pretty good so far, but it’s how he jives with the rest of the team. One thing’s for certain and it’s when the Knicks bench comes into the game, the energy level rises and they are responsible for keeping the team in the game on numerous occasions this year.
Through 14 games, Toppin is averaging close to 15 minutes a game, which is a step up from last season, but just barely. He’s averaging 7.4 points per game to go along with 3 rebounds, but it’s his high-flying acrobatics that capture most of the attention.
For now, his biggest issue is that he’s stuck behind Randle in the depth chart, and Thibs likes to close with his star players instead of the young guys. This could change as the season goes on, but Thibodeau has always been known to lean on his veterans, perhaps even too much.
Could Toppin Find Another Way?
The Knicks can’t seem to find a way to stay healthy at center with Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel getting banged up every other game it seems. Veteran Taj Gibson has been thrust into more playing time than he likely expected, but Thibs could ease the burden by mixing Toppin in more.
Small-ball lineups are becoming more common in the NBA, and they have a good one going for them if Randle and Toppin are in the game together. This sparked the comeback win against the Celtics in the opener, so the evidence is certainly there for Thibodeau to try it out even more.
If the centers continue to go down this road of injuries, he might have no other options left.