The New York Knicks had an unbelievable season cut short in the first round of the playoffs thanks to Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks broke through this season and were in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. During the offseason, the Knicks made a few moves; the most important was bringing in new head coach Tom Thibodeau.
New York finished the season with a 41-31 record in the Eastern Conference, which was good for fourth place in the East. The team had that record thanks to a few key players. Superstars Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Derrick Rose propelled the Knicks to their best season in nearly 10 years. Many fans still believe that if sophomore sensation Mitchell Robinson didn’t break his wrist, they would have gotten past the Hawks. All in all, it was a very impressive season. If they learn from their mistakes, they should become regulars in the playoffs year after year.
This was a very productive season for many Knicks players. Randle took the next step and won the NBA Most Improved Player award after the stat-filled season he had. Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and six assists per game. Those numbers, and a very determined head coach really helped Randle take his game to the next level.
The Knicks also brought in a few key pieces to help the team. They brought back veteran big-man Taj Gibson and Nerlens Noel. Once Robinson went down, everyone thought the Knicks season was over. However, these two players stepped up big and played a huge role. Many thought Noel should have won Defensive Player of the Year, given how well he held his own. His offensive numbers are pretty pathetic, but his defense stood out. No doubt that Thibs loved what he saw in Noel, and he will definitely be back for the playoff run in 2021-22.
MVP – Julius Randle
The Knicks had a lot going for them, but most important was Randle taking the next step and becoming that go-to option. Not only that, Barrett finally looked like the first round pick he was supposed to. Immanuel Quickley, who also had a beautiful season, shot 39 percent from three point land this year. He was also a near flawless 85 percent free throw shooter. Another main contributor to the Knicks success this year has to be the veteran presence of Derrick Rose and Gibson. Rose and Gibson were captains on and off the floor and their presence on the court helped a very young Knicks team into the playoffs.
Defensive Player of the Year – Nerlens Noel
Noel gets the nod here for the stupendous season he had. He anchored the Knicks defense every single time he stepped foot on the court. The Knicks had another dominant big-man in Robinson, but once he broke his wrist, Noel knew exactly what he had to do. Although he wouldn’t fill the stat sheet with points, his blocking and protecting of the rim was spectacular. It gave all the other Knicks players a sense of comfort, knowing Noel is down-low protecting the paint. On the year, he averaged 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 0.7 assists, but his blocking and defense is what put him over the top. Knicks fans are still in disbelief Noel didn’t win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Sixth Man of the Year – Immanuel Quickley
Quickley gets the pick here for one reason. It’s not tough to tell Payton was a complete liability on the Knicks offense this year, yet coach Thibs kept throwing him out there every night. Quickley would come in and give the Knicks that offensive boost they needed due to the miserable performance of Payton in only a few short minutes. On the year, Quickley played in 64 games and put up 11.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and two assists per contest. On paper, the stats don’t look that pretty. It was more about the energy and passion he brings to the court night in and night out. He moves the ball around, gets other players involved, and has a lethal five foot floater that is nearly unstoppable. New York fans are looking forward to Quickley starting next year and improving on those numbers.
Biggest Surprise – The New York Knicks
The Knicks as a whole surprised a lot of people by finishing in fourth place while making it to the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. They endured many disastrous head coaches, failed draft picks (see Kevin Knox), and lacked what teams needed to win games. Finally, with the additions of Coach Thibodeau, Rose, Taj, Barrett, and Randle all stepping up, the Knicks look good. If they continue to grow around this young core, they could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Biggest Disappointment – Mitchell Robinson
Robinson only played in 31 games due to injury and fans of the team had hoped for a career year from the young stud. Robinson entered the year in 2019 and has yet to play a full season, totaling 158 games in parts of three. The downtrend in games played is a huge concern, and Knicks fans have very right to start labeling him as “injury prone”. During Robinson’s three years in the NBA, he is averaging just 8.4 points per game with seven rebounds. Not a very productive start so far for the third-year junior out of Western Kentucky. The New York faithful hope he can shake off these injuries and make an impact on the future. After all, he is only 23.
The Knicks don’t have much to do after a very good season. They have to let go of the incompetent Payton and bring in a superstar to be the missing piece. If the team can land a stud like Damian Lillard, New York will have all the pieces to continue making playoff appearances for future years and potentially even win it all. However, they do need that superstar. Randle carried the Knicks to the playoffs, the Hawks threw everything they had at him, and Randle ended up having a horrid series. If the team has someone else to take some pressure off Randle, don’t be surprised to see New York in the finals in a few years.
Follow Josh Livi on Twitter @GangGreenNYK
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