Are the New York Knicks finally a play-off team again?
By Ben Mathias
Just over halfway through the season, and the New York Knicks are finally looking like a post-season team once again. The last time the Knicks made the playoffs was in 2013 and have only achieved this feat 5 times in 21 years. An unacceptable showing for arguably the biggest market in Basketball. However, 44 games have passed, and they’ve won 22 and lost 22. Giving them a win percentage of .500% which is considered respectable in the NBA. Finishing near or over .500% is usually good enough for a play-off spot, particularly in the Eastern Conference. So, they’re on pace to break their 8-year play-off drought, with that being said what makes the Knicks a good basketball team now?
They started the season with a new coach, Tom Thibodeau who has brought in a healthy and identifiable culture. As of the middle of March, the Knicks are second in defensive efficiency and 1st in points per game allowed. In years gone passed the word mercenaries would’ve been a good word to describe the New York Knicks and their players but now the players all play hard for each other and as I previously mentioned, there is now a healthy culture at Maddison Square Garden built on strong defence.
The Knicks have also recruited smartly, as well as other players ascending under the new Thibodeau regime. RJ Barrett is still providing numbers for the Knicks in his sophomore season and other players like Elfird Payton have also stepped up. The Knicks also added shooting to their team before the start of the season through acquiring Alec Burks. Immanuel Quickley who they drafted in 2020 also helped in this regard. Another player with a contrasting impact was Obi Toppin. The 8th overall pick has struggled to adapt to the league so far, but there is still hope for him, and many believe he still has potential to be a success.
The Knicks also picked up 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose from the Detroit Pistons who has also positively contributed. Rose has also worked with coach Thibodeau twice before. Perhaps the lynch pin in for the Knicks this season is Julius Randle, who earned his first NBA All-Star selection in 2021. Randle has gone from a serviceable NBA player to an All-Star this season and his stats reflect that fact. He is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists per game. It has been clear to see the ascension of Julius Randle under Tom Thibodeau and has also provided 3 triple doubles this season.
It is still unlikely for the New York Knicks to win the Championship or even reach the Conference Finals this season, but it is a positive sign for them that they are out of the wilderness and fighting for play-off spots. In the recent seasons, they have been associated with some of the worst records in the NBA, placing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in recent years. However, with their noisy neighbours, the Brooklyn Nets, picking up James Harden in a blockbuster trade to create a big three of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and subsequently becoming favourites to win it all, Knicks fans will be happy that their team is at the very least, looking competitive.