New York Knicks basketball is back! Well, maybe not the championship-winning basketball, but after seven years of missing the playoffs, you can understand the excitement that surrounded the team last season after finishing fourth in the World Cup. ‘East. What if the Knicks lose in the first round? Just getting to the playoffs deserved to hoist the banner of a franchise that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way for so many years.
But things are changing for the Knicks. This summer, they hired hometown hero Kemba Walker with a big discount, brought in Evan Fournier fresh off an Olympic silver medal with France, extended Julius Randle after raising his game to an All- level. Star last season and brought a key reserve back to Derrick Rose to lead the Second Unit. These moves earned the Knicks an “A” for their summer vacation.
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Looking ahead to the 2021-22 campaign, New York must now prove that last season was no fluke, while battling the rest of the suddenly deep Eastern Conference. The Knicks may look like a team headed for another outing in the first round, but here are three reasons they might actually surprise everyone this season.
The New York Knicks List
- Guards: Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, Evan Fournier, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, Quentin Grimes
- Forwards: RJ Barrett, Dwayne Bacon, Kevin Knox, Julius Randle, Obi Toppin, Taj Gibson, Aamir Simms
- Centers: Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel, Jericho Sims
1. Walker ready for a rebound season
Knee injuries plagued Walker last season with the Boston Celtics, limiting him to just 43 regular-season games and missing the last two games of Boston’s first-round loss of the series to the Brooklyn Nets. Even when he was on the ground, he looked like a shell of the player we used to see in Charlotte who received the nickname “Cardiac Kemba” for her ability to terrorize opposing defenses.
It wasn’t that he had a bad season, as he was still posting numbers close to his career average, but it was clear his line, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were not performing at the level many had hoped for. As a result, Walker’s efficiency has plunged, particularly from his shots mid-range bread and butter where he only made 35% of his attempts a season ago. In his last season in Charlotte, he crushed them at 47%.
But after being first traded by the Celtics to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then bought out the rest of his contract by OKC, Walker found himself able to sign with his native Knicks in a very ‘the way. stars are moment of alignment on both sides. The Knicks needed a playmaker to bring versatility and score to the starting lineup. Walker needed an environment that had nuances similar to what his role was in Charlotte.
With the Knicks, Walker will be able to execute the offense in full, using his ability to create the dribble to look good, as well as put his teammates like Fournier, Randle and Barrett in a position to get more shots. easy. The offense will go through Walker, unlike Boston where the Celtics had three incredibly capable playmakers in Walker, Tatum and Brown, which forced them all to split their keys.
Now in New York, Walker’s use is expected to increase again as we saw in Charlotte where he consistently ranks in the 90th percentile in that category, compared to the 70th percentile with the Celtics. His assist percentage should also see an increase after a two-year drop at Boston, and we should see a more comfortable Walker playing in a system that should highlight his strengths.
Of course, it all depends on his health. However, in the Knicks’ opener of preseason, Walker was moving pretty well in a performance where he had 12 points, four assists and three 5-for-10 rebounds from the field. Granted, this is preseason, but given the last time we saw Walker, he only scored six points while shooting 21% from the field and going 0 for 7 deep, that’s an encouraging sight to see.
2. Improved offensive around Randle
One of the biggest issues that plagued the Knicks in the regular season and playoffs last year was their offense. Despite having the fourth-ranked defense in the league, the Knicks’ offense placed 22nd, which was painfully obvious against the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
This resulted in a below-average playoff performance from Randle, who received tons of defensive attention as he couldn’t carry the full brunt of New York’s offense on his own. This forced head coach Tom Thibodeau to rely heavily on backup goaltender Derrick Rose to start the offense, as the only quality playmaker on the roster. While Rose was successful in keeping the Knicks afloat for part of the series, it was not sustainable, especially against an Atlanta team that had excessive offensive firepower.
In response, the Knicks got Walker, who is the perfect game keeper to run the show for New York. But they also added depth of fire to surround Randle and Walker with the addition of Fournier and the return of Alec Burks.
Although Fournier underperformed for the Celtics after being traded to Boston by the Orlando Magic last season, he rejoins the Knicks after an inspired Olympic run with France where he showed the stint with the Celtics is not indicative of who he is as a player. During the Olympics, Fournier averaged 18.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists, while shooting 53.5 percent from the field. His 20-point performance against Slovenia to qualify for the gold medal game was one of the main reasons France won.
Fournier is an ideal winger to have on the pitch alongside Walker and Randle as he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to excel. While his raw numbers weren’t up to what many expected of him when he was traded to Boston, during that 16-game stint he shot the ball incredibly well from the depths (46 , 3%). He also ranked in the 98th percentile of snipers during that time, generating 1.375 points per possession. With Walker giving him the ball – again – Fournier should benefit from those looks coming out of screens or out of the corner.
In addition to adding Fournier, the Knicks brought back Burks, who shot 41.5% from depths last season with New York. After losing Reggie Bullock to the Mavericks, bringing Burks back was a necessity for the Knicks, and in doing so, they’ll have some shooting depth off the bench.
With the decision to prioritize improving offense, Randle won’t feel as much pressure when defense tightens on him. He’ll also have enough players to lean on when he can’t find his shot, aside from having an All-Star goalie who will give him quality looks every time he takes to the pitch.
3. Depth from top to bottom of the list
Fournier and Burks are just the tip of the iceberg for the Knicks’ depth this season. In addition to these two reliable shooters, the Knicks will also get the big man Mitchell Robinson back after being limited last season with a foot injury. Prior to the injury, Robinson was starting to establish himself as a big man who ran over the rim and blocked shots, and at just 22 he barely scratched the surface of his potential.
Between him and Nerlens Noel, whose latter averaged 2.2 blocks per game last season, New York has a front zone that will pose problems for teams trying to lead in the paint. There’s also second-year forward Obi Toppin, who, despite having a limited role in his rookie campaign, showed flashes of playoff potential when he had some playing time.
As for the backcourt, behind Walker is Rose who can fill any role that is asked of her. When the Knicks needed a playmaker midway through the playoffs last season, Rose responded by dropping 30 points in Game 3 after Thibodeau gave her the start. He’s instantly offensive as a starter or as a reserve, and he’s also a bit of a confidence if Walker has to be out at any point in the season.
Besides Rose’s contributions to the backcourt, there’s Immanuel Quickley, who impressed everyone in his rookie season a year ago. Although he never made it into the starting lineup, Quickley managed to average 29 points per 100 possessions, the most rookie count in his class, and the Knicks scored 4.3 more points for 100 possessions in attack when down. His measured and calm approach to the game has earned him the respect of a hard-line coach like Thibodeau, and he has proven he deserves a bigger role. If he builds on last season’s success, then he could see his role increase, which is positive for the Knicks.
Depth is something the Knicks didn’t have in abundance last season, but they’ll be heading into the 2021-22 campaign with more weapons at their disposal. Mix that with the addition of Walker and more shooters, and on paper New York already looks like a better team than a year ago, which should be a concern for other teams in the East.