While several playoff contenders added scoring help on the wing at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, the Knicks stuck with their existing roster and were immediately rewarded for standing pat.
Alec Burks poured in a season-high 27 points off the bench in the Knicks’ comeback victory over the Wizards, his fourth consecutive game netting 20 or more.
The 10th-year shooting guard even has filled in occasionally at the point in recent games, due to injury or illness absences by Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton and Immanuel Quickley.
“He just does it all. There’s not any one particular thing. But he’s real good in a lot of different areas,” Tom Thibodeau said of Burks after Thursday’s game. “He can run the team, he can play the point, play off the ball, put it on the floor, can shoot the three, can finish over size.
“He’s got the total package offensively. You can’t speed him up, and I think that’s huge. You can use him a lot of different ways.”
The Knicks, 23-22 entering Saturday’s visit to Milwaukee, had been linked to several wing players before Thursday’s deadline, but Victor Oladipo (Heat), Evan Fournier (Celtics), Norman Powell (Blazers) and JJ Redick (Mavericks) all ended up elsewhere.
Burks played 34 minutes off the bench against the Wizards, finishing with 27 points on 8-for-18 shooting and 9-for-11 from the free-throw line. He is averaging 18.9 points per game over his past eight appearances.
“AB has been doing it all season,” said RJ Barrett, who contributed 24 points. “That’s what he does. I’ve seen him every day, he’s working hard. Actually, we work out together almost every day. Just really happy to see him doing what he’s doing.
“He’s stepping up big-time for us. We need him and [I’m] very happy we have a guy like that on our team.”
Payton and Frank Ntilikina started Thursday’s game alongside Barrett with Reggie Bullock (sprained ankle) sidelined, but Burks and Quickley were on the court down the stretch as the Knicks overcame a 17-point deficit in the second half.
“I thought that having [Burks] and Quick on the floor together, along with RJ – you’ve got three guys who can go off the dribble, get into the paint, force the defense to collapse and then create easy shots,” Thibodeau said. “I think getting to the free-throw line, getting downhill, all those things matter. Just the way Alec plays, he doesn’t start, but he often times finishes.
“And that’s probably the most important thing. He’s another guy who’s willing to do whatever you ask of him. He always puts the team first. We have a number of guys like that – it’s hard not to respect those types of players. Those are winning players.”
Thibodeau added that he likes “just about everything” about the 29-year-old Burks’ diverse game and mental approach. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s connected on nine of his last 18 attempts from 3-point range during his four-game scoring binge, upping his long-distance percentage for the season to essentially 40 percent (.399).
“That’s what you love about him … he can run the point, play off the ball, can play the power forward position,” Thibodeau said. “But his willingness to do whatever he’s asked to do, put the team first, veteran leadership, unselfishness, discipline, all the things you look for in a winning player, he’s done. And I just think his versatility – you can’t have enough wings in today’s game – he fits perfectly for us.”