The New York Knicks have gotten off to their best start in three years.
The Knicks have seven wins in their first 15 games.
Over the past 10 years, this is how long it has taken the Knicks to get win number seven:
|Year||Game Number||FInal Record|
After raising some eyebrows with a 5-3 record to start the season, the Knicks fell into a funk in which they lost five straight. Fans and media alike labeled this team “Same Ol’ Knicks.” It sure was disheartening to watch the Knicks lose to teams they should’ve defeated such as the Thunder, Hornets, and Cavaliers.
But the Knicks have followed up on the five-game losing streak with an impressive win over the elite Boston Celtics and fluttering Orlando Magic. During the five-game losing streak, Knicks’ opponents were averaging 109.2 points per game. In the last two games, Knicks’ opponents are averaging 79.5 points per game.
Now that sounds like a team led by Tom Thibodeau.
As a matter of fact, the Knicks are first in the NBA in points per game allowed (102.7), defensive three-point percentage (31.2%), and defensive field goal percentage (43.3%). They rank 5th in the NBA in defensive rating at 106.2.
The Knicks have the best defense in the NBA.
Some other noteworthy numbers include the hot streak RJ Barrett is in. As noted in a previous post, he’s fine. Again, getting all over a 20-year-old kid for not performing up to par in the world’s best league is ridiculous. The potential is there for Barrett, he’s going to have that breakout season soon.
In his last four games, Barrett has averaged 20.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game while shooting 49% from the field and 90% from the free-throw line. Re-read those numbers. He’s 20 years old having an impressive streak at the most prestigious level. Stop complaining.
But if you want something to complain about here’s something: in 15 games, Elfrid Payton is averaging 13.1 points per game, 4.1 assists per game, and 4.1 rebounds per game.
He puts up subpar numbers each and every night and it looks like this Knicks offense is stagnant and uninspired when he’s on the court. If he isn’t driving the lane and putting up a hopeless floater or putting up a layup in heavy traffic, he’s passing the ball and running into a corner for 15 seconds in a ready position knowing he’s a 30% shooter from behind the arc. Plus, in a game against the Cavaliers, he had zero assists. His box plus/minus is a -2.8. Oh, by the way, he’s the starting point guard.
On the other hand, in 11 games, Immanuel Quickley had averaged 10 points per game, 2.6 assists per game, and 1.6 rebounds per game in 18 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers become about 20 points per game, five assists per game, and three rebounds per game. When Quickley gets minutes, he’s able to stretch the floor out a lot better. You couple his ability to bring the ball up with his sweet three-pointer and a smooth floater that feels automatic every time and the Knicks find some life and play with a pulse when he’s playing. Plus, a 96% conversion rate from the free-throw line will bring anyone a smile. His box plus/minus is 0.8. He is not in the starting lineup.
Go ahead, see for yourself when the Knicks have Payton on the floor compared to Quickley.
I believe Thibodeau is waiting to insert Quickley in the lineup when Alec Burks returns (which should be as soon as Thursday night). It wouldn’t surprise me if Thibodeau gives Burks about four games to get back into rhythm after an injury to insert both him and Quickley into the starting five and putting Payton and Reggie Bullock on the bench.
A Quickley-Burks-Barrett-Randle-Robinson starting lineup gives the Knicks much more offense than with Payton and Bullock in there.
No knock on Bullock, he’s been useful for the Knicks this season. He’s probably been the most consistent three-point shooter not named Alec Burks for this team.
Oh yeah, Julius Randle! He’s a bucket and a rebounder now. Any night that he doesn’t get 20-10 is shocking now. Watching the transformation of Julius Randle has been magnificent.
So to recap the first 15 games of the Knicks’ 2020-21 season: Barrett is developing, Quickley looks like a good starting point guard, Randle is playing at an All-Star level, the Knicks are one game under .500 and find themselves in 8th place in a season where 10 teams per conference qualify for the playoffs.
It’s not what Brooklyn has at the moment, but it’s the necessary steps needed to become an elite team.
Be patient because like Austin Rivers said “this isn’t a bad team. I’ve been around bad teams and this isn’t one of them.” I believe him.
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