Knicks need a rotation shakeup, and a Julius Randle-Obi Toppin pairing is among several options

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Obi Toppin and Julius Randle treated image
Obi Toppin and Julius Randle treated image

Even with their win over the Clippers, this was not the Knicks' finest week. They dropped three consecutive home games, falling behind by double-figures in each, including to a lowly New Orleans Pelicans squad.

New York currently sits outside of the play-in tournament (tied with the Boston Celtics for the 10 seed, but the loser of that tiebreaker), and 4.5 games south of avoiding it altogether.

It’s clear a shakeup is needed. We’re past the midway point of the season, and adding Cam Reddish into the mix can’t be the saving grace. While many are pointing to trade season as the answer, it’s possible a solution lies within this roster as assembled.

Despite this lack of sustained winning, head coach Tom Thibodeau has failed to experiment more with this roster, instead rolling out the same lineups and combinations that are failing to produce. This was an issue last season, when it took losing Game 1 of the playoffs, and homecourt advantage, to pull Elfrid Payton out of the starting lineup despite his weaknesses.

Two prime examples from 2021-22 are not starting Immanuel Quickley or running the Julius Randle-Obi Toppin frontcourt.

This isn’t to say either would work to turn around the Knicks’ fortunes, but the fact that the status quo hasn’t means alternatives should be tried.

Quickley has played 14 minutes alongside the four other starters: Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson. Kemba Walker has played 350 minutes with the starters and Alec Burks has played 161.

Walker’s unit gives up 11.5 points per 100 possessions to opponents, while Burks’ breaks even. Compare this to the Quickley-led unit ravaging opponents by 9.3 points in a small sample size.

Nov 8, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) celebrates with guard RJ Barrett (9) against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second half at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) celebrates with guard RJ Barrett (9) against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second half at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

Quickley may not be the sharpest of floor generals. He’s still just a second-year player who picks up the ball too much and can be puzzling with his shot selection.

However, he’s been their best defender at the point guard position this season -- albeit less switchable -- and doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. His passing is much improved, his shooting reliable, and his driving effective at getting into the teeth of the defense.

To not even attempt to start him despite closing tight games with him as much as your other point guards is bizarre.

Randle has played 1,558 minutes this season, 90 of which have been alongside Toppin. This Knicks team that is still shaky on offense and is trying to switch more defensively won’t pair their two most dynamic big men, even when in foul trouble or just for short stretches. Once again, the on/off statistics in a small sample size favor this look.

These aren’t the only possibilities. Barrett has led the team in scoring since December. Is the offense going to begin emphasizing him more?

Reddish is the new addition. Will he get run at multiple position with different teammates? He doesn’t appear to have a starting role, but pairing him with Barrett should be explored.

Barring a season-saving trade falling from the sky, which doesn’t appear likely unless the Knicks are ready to move core pieces, Thibodeau and his team will have to figure out how to get back into their winning ways on their own. He can start with trying new things, instead of hoping the old ways figure themselves out.