The Knicks rotation change has finally given them an identity

Knicks Rotation
Deuce McBride and Nick Richards fight for a loose ball in Friday’s game. McBride’s defensive prowess has earned him a spot in the rotation. Sam Sharpe, USA Today Sports

Last week, Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau made the decision to remove Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish from the rotation in favor of Deuce McBride.

This decision was a controversial one amongst Knicks fans, who are big supporters of Reddish after the Knicks traded a first-round pick for him last season. Reddish started in eight of the 20 games that he appeared in this season, averaging 8.4 points per game on 45 percent from the field.

Rose, on the other hand, has gotten out to his slowest start as a Knick, shooting his lowest percentage since his first season post-ACL tear in 2014. However, the decision to promote defensive-oriented sophomore guard McBride into the Knicks’ rotation is proving to be a good one so far.

The Knicks posted a defensive rating of 114.9 in games Reddish played this season, putting them 24th in the NBA. In games without Reddish in the rotation, the Knicks have a defensive rating of 108.5, which is the third-best in the league. In the three games this week without Reddish and Rose in the Knicks’ rotation, they held the Cavs to 81 points, the Hawks to 89, and the Hornets to 102.

Thibodeau is a notorious defensive-minded coach and had the Knicks as the third-best defense in their playoff-clinching 2021 campaign. That rating fell to 11th last season with rotation minutes going to Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Fournier was also taken out of the Knicks’ rotation in mid-November.

With the emergence of Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes as perimeter defenders, the move to bring McBride alongside them just makes sense.

In the October meeting with Charlotte this season, the Knicks allowed 131 points and it took an overtime period to defeat them. The Hornets shot nearly 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line in that first game. In Friday’s matchup, the Knicks held Charlotte to 102 points on 44 percent from the field and an abysmal 23 percent from the three-point line.

One standout statistic about the Knicks’ rotation is the sophomore duo of Grimes and McBride. The duo has posted a defensive rating of 75.4 in their time on the court together this season, the best of any two-man lineup this season with more than 50 minutes played together.

Though the fans might not like it, the move to shift to a defensive-minded bench unit might just be the key to defining the Knicks’ rotation identity over the next few seasons.

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