LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 06: Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves laughs on the sidelines during the first half against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on December 6, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The bizarre circumstances of 2020 are providing Tom Thibodeau an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the New York Knicks to succeed.

Danny Small

“Only in 2020, right?” is becoming a cliché that everyone is tired of hearing, but this has been a weird year. For the New York Knicks, this means they played their last game on March 11 and likely won’t play again until 2021. Adam Silver recently told CNN that his “best guess” is that the next NBA season won’t start until 2021.

So where does that leave Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks? Surprisingly, in a pretty advantageous position.

The Knicks have been together in Tarrytown doing individual workouts at their training facility and on Wednesday they begin team workouts. These are voluntary, but according to multiple reports, it sounds like most of the young players on the team will be there working with the new coaching staff.

The only notable absence will be Mitchell Robinson, who SNY’s Ian Begley reports will miss these workouts due to personal reasons. It’s worth noting that Knicks Film School’s Jonathan Macri recently reported that Robinson was taking part in personal workouts at the facility with incoming assistant coach and big man guru Kenny Payne.

Macri notes that Payne’s focus has been “almost exclusively” on Robinson, Julius Randle, and Kevin Knox so far — three players with whom he worked with during their college careers (yes, Robinson briefly too). Therein lies the rub of why this long layoff between games could actually work to the Knicks, and more specifically, Tom Thibodeau’s benefit.

Thibs has all the time in the world to lay the groundwork for what he wants his 2021 Knicks to look like. Payne and fellow development guru Johnnie Bryant — who is largely credited with helping develop Donovan Mitchell — have ample time to work with the young Knicks who could use a hand developing their skills before next season.

To be clear, these voluntary workouts only run through Oct. 6, but that doesn’t mean the development stops there. Hardly. These next couple of weeks are only the beginning.

Bryant and Payne are here to lay the foundation for the next few months so that Robinson, Knox, Randle, RJ Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr., among others, are on the fast track for success in the 2021 season — whenever that may be.

Front Office Scouting

Another aspect of the voluntary team workouts that shouldn’t go overlooked is the opportunity for the front office to evaluate the roster. It’s still unclear which players on team options for next season are there in Tarrytown right now, but the front office most likely already has an idea of what they plan to do with those guys next season.

They have 66 games to evaluate those guys so it would be pretty wild for any of them to really “wow” the front office and change their decision.

Rather, it’s the G League guys who might have a chance to turn some heads. That includes the likes of Kenny Wooten, who is already voicing his excitement at being *a part* of the organization.

Sidenote: Credit to Wooten for correcting his grammar.

However, it’s also about guys like Ignas Brazdeikis and Lamar Peters. Brazdeikis was a second-round pick the Knicks traded for last summer and although he spent most of his 2019-20 season with the Westchester Knicks, he could be in the long-term plans of the organization if he develops into a dead-eye three-point shooter.

Peters, on the other hand, is on the G League squad, and although it’s unclear if he’s at these workouts in Tarrytown, it would be a nice opportunity to make a strong impression on the front office and the coaching staff.

The next few months for Tom Thibodeau and his coaching staff is about laying the groundwork for 2021 and beyond. This year has had no shortage of twists and turns, but it ironically provides Thibs with a tremendous opportunity to start building something for the future.

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