Miles McBride's emergence raises questions about Knicks' rotation plans

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  • New York Knicks
    New York Knicks
  • Miles McBride
    Miles McBride
    American basketball player
Miles McBride white uniform close shot no opponent
Miles McBride white uniform close shot no opponent

Miles McBride was at his old high school on the night of the 2021 NBA Draft.

Dozens of friends, family and fans were in Moeller High School’s gymnasium to celebrate McBride’s entry into the NBA.

Based on video footage of the night, everyone seemed elated when the Knicks selected McBride with the No. 36 pick.

But when McBride took the microphone to address the crowd in the gym, something was gnawing at McBride.

“(It) took longer than I expected,” McBride said to the crowd, “Everybody’s going to pay for that. I promise you.”

There was some laughter in the crowd, but McBride was dead serious.

“I promise you.”

McBride’s "I told you so" tour started on Tuesday night, when he gave the Knicks 20 solid minutes against Golden State (eight points, four rebounds, two assists).

The tour continued Thursday night in Houston, where McBride put together the best game of his short career,

The 21-year-old had 15 points, nine assists, four steals and no turnovers to lift the shorthanded Knicks to a win over the Rockets.

McBride came off the bench to log 36 minutes. His defensive intensity and execution helped New York outscore Houston by 19 when he was on the court.

McBride also just looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, using screens and finding open shooters all night against Houston.

That’s always noteworthy for a first-year player.

It should be noted that Houston was playing the second game of a back-to-back, coming off of a 35-point loss to the Cavs.

So even though the Knicks were shorthanded, they should have won the game.

But the way they won it felt significant for several reasons:

McBride, like all young players, will have his ups and downs. But if he can defend consistently and run an offense, does Tom Thibodeau need to find him regular minutes?

If so, whose spot does McBride take in the rotation?

(As an aside, Thibodeau loves McBride; whenever reporters ask, Thibodeau always heaps praise on the rookie.)

The same question can be asked about Quentin Grimes. Grimes, currently sidelined due to health and safety protocols, had 27 points (seven three-pointers) in a loss to the Bucks last week.

Does Thibodeau need to find regular minutes for Grimes when he returns? If so, who does he replace in the lineup?

If you’re thinking big-picture, these are great problems to have. They tell you that the Knicks have drafted well under Leon Rose.

You’re talking about finding rotation spots for each of the Knicks’ four highest draft picks in the Rose era.

But shorter-term, it could force Thibodeau to make some difficult rotation decisions for a Knick team that’s looking for answers.

One lineup decision that Thibodeau seems set on? Keeping Kemba Walker out of the rotation. Derrick Rose was unavailable in the second half against Houston. If there was ever a night to play Walker, it was in that second half. Thibodeau started the half with McBride at point guard and played him the entire third and fourth quarter.

Walker was a DNP-CD for the seventh straight game.


Against Golden State on Tuesday, Julius Randle had 25 points in the second half. He made five of his six three-point attempts in the half. After that game, Randle was asked about his approach after halftime. In a broad sense, his answer provided some insight into his performance this year.

"I just locked in and said I'm going to be aggressive. I think when I overthink… naturally, I try to be unselfish and kind of think the game and get everybody going and stuff like that," he said. "But I just said I'm going to be aggressive (in the second half against Golden State). I just kind of let my instincts take over rather than overthinking it."

Randle seemed to find a balance between assertion and assimilation on Thursday.

He had 21 points, six rebounds, six assists and a steal in 32 minutes. Randle didn’t seem to force any shots and seemed comfortable shooting from distance. He made three of his eight three-point attempts. When Randle is a threat from beyond the arc, it seems to open up the offense for New York.

After Tuesday’s game, Randle was asked about the challenge between trying to take a game over and trying to get his teammates involved.

"When I'm naturally just myself I naturally do those things (balance aggressive approach vs. getting teammates involved)," he said. "When I'm hesitant and overthinking - I got an open shot and I don't shoot it because I'm trying to play the right way and get other people going - it kind of takes me a little bit out of rhythm.

“It takes away from my aggressiveness. It's crazy because then that’s when I start to get turnovers and stuff like that. But when I'm naturally aggressive and playing with force everything kind of falls into place and I get in a rhythm and I start not overthinking - (if I’m) open, I shoot it. If dudes close out, that’s when I’m able to get into the paint and find people."