Julius Randle, RJ Barrett played more minutes than anyone else in NBA in 2020-21 season

By , Audacy Sports

The NBA implemented a policy in an attempt to restrict the ever so popular strategy of load management throughout the league, and it lessened how often healthy players could rest, to a degree. Still, if you were a fan of the 76ers, Lakers, Clippers, Bucks or the other preconceived top dogs around the league, there were certainly some games where you'd watch one or both teams scratch a player or two — under various designations — in an attempt to give them a day off. Intertwined with real injuries and with the COVID-19 pandemic, you likely saw quite a few absences.

But if you're a Knicks fan, you didn't need to worry about that. No load management here. No light workloads in Thibs' house — that's not the way things go. As if the surprise 41-31 season from the Knicks wasn't enjoyable enough, fans were also guaranteed to watch their best players take the court for a full-fledged contest every night out there.

Julius Randle, who had never played more than 33 minutes per game prior to this season, led the league with 37.6 minutes per game — he played in 71 of 72 contests — and with 2,667 total minutes played. The Knicks certainly needed every minute, as their All-Star big man turned in a year-long performance that legitimately warrants some looks for MVP consideration. Heck, even Shaq acknowledged that Randolph... err, Randle is playing at an MVP level.

Right behind Randle in the total minutes column is teammate RJ Barrett, who logged 2,511 minutes played while averaging 34.9 per night. He's one of just 11 players to appear in all 72 games this year, a testament to his durability and just how much Tom Thibodeau likes to lean on his stars, which was the case with Randle as well. Here's the full list of 72-game players in this weird, wild year, sorted by minutes per game. Notably, the second name on there is the likely MVP winner.

Query Results Table
Rk Player Season Age Tm G MP
1RJ Barrett2020-2120NYK7234.9
2Nikola Jokić2020-2125DEN7234.6
3Mikal Bridges2020-2124PHO7232.6
4Anthony Edwards2020-2119MIN7232.1
5Duncan Robinson2020-2126MIA7231.4
6Bojan Bogdanović2020-2131UTA7230.8
7Justin Holiday2020-2131IND7230.3
8Dwayne Bacon2020-2125ORL7225.7
9Enes Kanter2020-2128POR7224.4
10Ivica Zubac2020-2123LAC7222.3
11Georges Niang2020-2127UTA7216.0
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2021.

Two other Knicks that Thibodeau clearly likes playing a lot are bench scorers Alec Burks and Derrick Rose, both of whom rank in the top ten in minutes per game for bench players.

Query Results Table
Rk Player Season Age Tm GS G MP
1Terrence Ross2020-2129ORL24629.3
2Josh Hart2020-2125NOP44728.7
3Jordan Clarkson2020-2128UTA16826.7
4T.J. McConnell2020-2128IND36926.0
5Dāvis Bertāns2020-2128WAS75725.7
6Alec Burks2020-2129NYK54925.6
7Derrick Rose2020-2132TOT35025.6
8Patty Mills2020-2132SAS16824.8
9Carmelo Anthony2020-2136POR36924.5
10Danilo Gallinari2020-2132ATL45124.0
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2021.

Seeing Thibodeau rely heavily on his impact players isn't a surprise — he's previously acknowledged and defended that style of coaching for which he's well known — but seeing those players bring such a fantastic winning season to New York certainly was. They were almost universally ranked near the bottom of the league heading into the season, and... well, look where we're at now. It's not like the team had a slow start or anything, but despite constant thoughts of "this hot streak has to end eventually" and similar musings, the Knicks just kept on going.

They'll look to keep it going as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, taking on the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks in Round 1, and you can fully expect that Randle, Barrett and company will be playing their hearts out for as long as Thibs desires.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: (Raj Mehta/USA Today)