The Knicks began the second half of their 2019-20 season on Friday night (though it's really more of the final third of the season, with 27 games left on the calendar), and the hot topic around the team continues to be the balance of developing young players versus playing veterans.
Interim head coach Mike Miller was asked about that subject once again on Friday prior to the Knicks' 106-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers, and he reiterated that has no plans to play younger players more minutes solely because the team is out of contention.
"I talk to (GM Scott Perry) every day. We talk about personnel, we talk about player development, we talk about everything, every day. Multiple times, sometimes. We are in agreement, as we go through this, that we are high-level trying to develop players. And as we do that, the approach that we're taking is that their minutes are quality minutes," Miller said. "They're bringing value to the team when they're out there. We think that's helping them develop and moving them forward.
"Again, we're looking at development in a lot of different ways and not saying it's just about, you just need 25 minutes a game to develop. I think there's more to it, there's more ways that we can help these guys grow then doing that. They're getting experience and they're getting opportunities and they're learning. We're seeing growth."
From a minutes standpoint, five of the Knicks' six leaders in minutes per game on the season are Julius Randle, Marcus Morris (now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers), RJ Barrett, Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, and the recently acquired Moe Harkless, who played 25 minutes in his only game with the team prior to Friday. Of that group, only Barrett is the only non-veteran.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Robinson (22.6), Frank Ntilikina (20.6) are playing what can be described as significant minutes, though Ntilikina's minutes have fluctuated.
The playing time for Kevin Knox (18.3), Damyean Dotson (17.4), Dennis Smith Jr. (15.5), and Allonzo Trier (12.3) has also been up and down.
The Knicks are seven games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so barring a miracle, you can forget about a postseason berth this season.
New York last made the playoffs in 2013. So again, they'll be playing for draft seeding in the final weeks of the season. But it doesn't sound like there is a plan in place to play young players ahead of veterans for the sake of development.
So based on what Miller said Friday, there's no reason to think players like Dotson and Trier will get time ahead of Bullock.
Whether that's the right strategy or not depends on your point of view.
Some assistant coaches believe that the best way to develop players in the NBA is to give them playing time and let them play through mistakes. Other executives believe that players should earn minutes; playing them a ton of minutes for the sake of development, they say, can breed poor habits.
If you judge things from a statistical perspective, it's hard to find a clear player development success story for the Knicks this year. None of the second-year Knicks have taken a major leap forward.
Knox has improved on defense and Robinson continues to defend well and draw attention as a roller on offense. But no one has improved dramatically.
Is that a poor reflection on the Knicks' player development? Is it a poor reflection of the players? Is it sensible to judge a team's player-development program on how second-year players have progressed? Some Knicks people feel that it's foolish to judge the player development program on how young players like Knox (20) and Robinson (21) have progressed.
But reasonable people can draw a different conclusion. At the least, it's a bit concerning that the Knicks can't point to one 'victory' for their player development program.
Barrett and Ntilikina in the backcourt
The Knicks went with a backcourt of RJ Barrett and Frank Ntilikina for stretches during Friday's loss to the Pacers. If the Knicks' young core of Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, Barrett and Kevin Knox remains intact under Leon Rose, the Barrett-Ntilikina pairing could be something you see more of in the future.
"I like it a lot," Barrett said of playing with Ntilikina in the backcourt. "I understand his game a lot. (He's a) European player - that's kind of the way I played growing up. I feel like we understand each other."
Barrett and Ntilikina sometimes speak French to one another on the court. They did it at times on Friday.
"Opponents don't understand," Ntilikina said.
The Knicks' net rating and defensive rating when Ntilikina and Barrett have played together isn't strong. But, at 17-39, New York hasn't played many successful lineups this season.