Tom Thibodeau has had some development success in his past. Derrick Rose was the youngest MVP in the history of the league under Thibs. He also helped transform Jimmy Butler (a # 30 choice) into the player he is today. However, for the most part Thibodeau could not be disturbed by the young players because they could not contribute to the short-term win.
This has to change. It is both a matter of mindset and Thibodeau who involves development assistants and gives them room to operate (sources throughout the league have told NBC Sports Thibodeau likes to control everything, design every practice and game plan, right down to writing on the blackboard first games and more).
Thibodeau must build a culture of player development in New York, something that didn’t exist before.
This does not mean that the Knicks cannot swing into a big business, something the franchise believes is ready to do. However, he must follow more of the model that the Lakers did: Draft and development of young players (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart), trying to win with them while also building their commercial value, therefore using those players when the weather comes to make a bold move (for the Lakers it was Anthony Davis). Right now, Knicks’ future choices are more valuable than anyone else outside maybe Robinson on the roster.
Thibodeau has a reputation as a defensive innovator, but his defenses were not impressive in Minnesota. Part of this was certainly personal – Karl-Anthony Towns will not be confused by Dikembe Mutombo – but Thibs did not raise the players or find a system suitable for their skills. In New York, he has to build from the defense (and he has a potentially strong anchor in the paint with Robinson) and make everything work.
The Knicks are not a turnkey situation where Thibodeau is joining a playoff team. A culture must be built (a James Dolan doesn’t get involved). The talent must be added to the list, then developed. Do all this, build a place where superstars want to come and the power to play in New York will give the Knicks an edge. Right now the big stars choose Brooklyn first. It shows how much work needs to be done.
Thibodeau could be the man who brings New York back to the spotlight. Could be. Will have the chance.