The New York Knicks seem to be surprising some people this season with the way they have been playing. On paper, the Knicks do not have a championship-caliber roster. But, the way they have been playing recently makes people think, are the Knicks finally a playoff-caliber team once again? My answer to that question is yes they are.
Everyone knows the Knicks have had a lot of head coaches during the past decade but Tom Thibodeau seems to be a good fit. He seems to be more of a defensive coach which is something the Knicks have been lacking for years. Also, he has been calling timeouts as he sees something is wrong and it looks like it is really helping. Thibodeau has made deep runs to the postseason before, which means he knows what it takes in order to take a team there, which is certainly beneficial.
The Knicks roster starts with Julius Randle. He is the best player on the Knicks currently and he has definitely been playing like that lately. Last night against the Cavs he had his best performance with the team, posting a 28 point triple-double. Throughout the first week of the season he looks like a much different player than he was last year. He has lost some weight and he looks like the best player on the court every time he is playing.
Heading into the season his main problems were turnovers and he has seemed to be able to fix that. In order for the Knicks to make a run to the postseason, they will definitely need Randle to keep up the way he has been playing.
There’s RJ Barrett, the second-year player who many feel like can be the Knicks face of the franchise. He didn’t have the greatest of rookie seasons, but he has been pretty good so far through 4 games. He struggled against the 76ers and he has been causing some turnovers. However, on the bright side, he has been shooting much better and if he is able to put up around 20 points a night, the Knicks are going to have a chance to win a good amount of games this season.
The Knicks two first-round picks from this year Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley are both currently injured, but reports are indicating that both of them will be back very soon, and that is terrific news. Quickley had some great games in the pre-season and it is quite possible that he is the point guard of the future.
He has speed, is capable of shooting the 3-ball, and finds the open man. Toppin on the other hand was the 8th overall pick, and some experts say he is the steal of the draft. He started the season coming off the bench, but if he is able to progress as the season goes along and become a starter, the team would get a big boost.
The Knicks starting center is Mitchell Robinson. Robinson is a guy who is still developing, but he has a lot of potential. He is already an elite shot blocker and he is able to get his way to the hoop at will. As long as he is able to avoid constantly getting into foul trouble, he will be able to put up a big stat line every game and see his playing time start to increase.
The team also has veterans Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, and recent free-agent signings Alec Burks and Austin Rivers. Payton and Bullock have both been in the starting lineup so far for every game. Bullock is able to provide the team with a reliable shooter who can shoot the 3 ball. Payton so far has been inconsistent and is likely to lose his starting spot once the team gets some guys healthy again. Though, he is finding the open man a lot, which is a positive.
Burks and Rivers are both currently on the shelf, but Burks looked pretty good in the games that he did play in. He provides versatility which the Knicks desperately need and he is able to put some points on the board. Rivers has not played at all yet, so his role on the team is not yet known, however he has had some success while he was with the Rockets.
The Knicks also have some guys that are contributors in Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. Frank is a two way guard that has definitely had his struggles while in the big apple. However, he is getting better as time goes on and that is why he is having an increase in his playing time. Knox is also excelling in his role off of the bench. Many have already given up on all three of these guys, but they are all still really young and will all be able to provide the team with a bit of help.
The Knicks will also have a little help to get in the playoffs this year, as there is a play in tournament. This means that teams no longer have to be a top 8 seed to get in. In a normal year, teams need around 40 wins to have a chance at a lower seed. Since this year there are only 72 games on the regular-season schedule, probably around 35 wins will be good enough to be in the play-in tournament.
With all that being said, it is clear that the Knicks have what it takes to be a playoff team once again, and the new play-in tournament makes the Knicks chances even higher.
Photo Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press