Load management has become quite a hot topic around the NBA this season.
The league is seeing teams sit their star players in hopes of conserving them for the stretch run or the playoffs. It’s an understandable notion considering the grind of a full NBA season. Just don’t tell that to the fans.
The Knicks, however, don’t seem too keen on managing the minutes of their best players. At least, that’s what head coach David Fizdale said earlier this month after playing rookie RJ Barrett a whopping 40 minutes against the Sacramento Kings.
Naturally, there was a cry of outrage across the game and the Knicks fan base wondering why the rookie played so many minutes in just his seventh NBA game.
“We’ve got to get off this load management crap,” Fizdale said. “This kid is 19. Drop it already.”
It was the second time in those first seven games that Barrett eclipsed the 40-minute mark. He was on for 40:02 on Oct. 28 against the Chicago Bulls.
The results suggested that Fizdale was right. Barrett had a strong start to his NBA career after being taken third overall in the 2019 draft — averaging 18.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in 37.1 minutes per game over his first seven appearances.
At that pace for an entire season, Barrett would have averaged the second-most minutes by a player under the age of 20 in NBA history, behind only LeBron James in 2003-04 (39.5 minutes per game), per ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton.
After Fizdale’s defiant remarks, however, Barrett saw his time on the floor decrease.
In the three games following his Nov. 3 epic against the Kings, he averaged just nine points per game, including three points in 34:55 against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 8.
Over the last four games, Barrett is averaging a much more realistic 29.2 minutes per game and has seen his production pick back up — posting games of 22, 21, and 15 points.
Still, his 33.6 minutes per game this season ranks 30th in the NBA. No other rookie or player under the age of 20 is ranked ahead of him.
When assessing this load-management situation, there are two major schools of thought on Barrett:
1) He is going to be the face of the Knicks for years to come. Giving him the workload of most stars around the league will only help him further adapt to life in the NBA.
2) There’s little reason to play him so much and run the risk of burning out or injury for a team that is expected to win approximately 20 games this season.