Alec Burks has been missing in New York for two weeks. Obi Toppin has just returned from a prolonged absence. Frank Ntilikina was out with a knee injury. So Thibodeau and his staff haven’t played a game with a full rotation yet.
But have they seen enough to determine that Quickley should start?
The early season lineup data doesn’t present a clear case for Quickley. Of the formations that played together for at least 15 minutes, two formations with Quickley have the best net score, according to NBA.com. But the starting lineup of Payton, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Reggie Bullock and Mitchell Robinson have a comparable net rating in several extra minutes on the pitch.
However, Quickley’s threat of firing could force the defense to extend, widening the field a bit more for Randle, Barrett and Bullock. The 21-year-old also has his hands active on defense and can get in line – traits that can help the New York starting unit. But maybe Thibodeau and the Knicks like Quickley with the reserves? Kevin Knox seems to benefit from Quickley’s presence.
If he’s thinking about making any lineup changes, Thibodeau didn’t tip Friday night. “It’s all on the table,” Thibodeau said when asked to mix up the lineup.
It would have been surprising if Thibodeau had announced on Friday that he would have started Quickley at the point guard. This is not how these decisions are usually communicated.
But if Quickley continues to produce as he did against Cleveland, a change could be inevitable.