The Knicks have been one of the pleasant surprises early on this season. With a 5-2 record to start the year, fans are excited about the prospects of their young squad going forward. Much like the Raiders and Cowboys in the NFL, the NBA is simply more entertaining when the Knicks are good, due to their history and large fan base. For the first time since Carmelo Anthony left there is hope in the Big Apple.
Under new coach Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle has turned the page and is averaging 23 PPG 12 RPG and 7 APG to start the year. Numbers like that are what the franchise hoped for when he signed a three year deal worth $62 million last year. His ability to the score alongside Mitchell Robinson’s defensive prowess make for a very formidable tandem down low. If Randle can keep up this kind of production he will be at the top of the list for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and a shoe in for an All-Star selection out of the Eastern Conference.
RJ Barrett has taken a big step in his development as well. An average of 17 PPG and 7 RPG are exactly what you want to see out of a 20 year old in only his second season in the league. His current field goal percentage of 39% leaves plenty of room for improvement as well. Better shot selection is something that would fix that problem and make him one of the top young players in the league.
Elfrid Payton has been another success story early on for the Knicks. The PG position has been a revolving door for the franchise the last few seasons. From Derrick Rose to Brandon Jennings, the team has ben hard pressed to find the floor general they need. Averaging 14 PPG and 5 APG aren’t flashy numbers, but his play and command of the offense have been exactly what his teammates need out of him. Payton appears to have a hold on the PG position with Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith doing little to take the role away from him. If Payton can continue to run the offense well and provide Randle and Barrett with open looks, it could go a long way to Knicks securing their first playoff appearance since 2013.
The NBA season is long and full of peaks and valleys. This team appears to have what it takes to be competitive, something we haven’t seen in New York for some time. The development of the young Knicks core has allowed them to beat solid teams like the Jazz and Pacers. A matchup tonight with a rebuilding Thunder team provides them with another opportunity to stack the win column and prove they belong in the playoff picture. I’m calling it now. The 2021 Knickerbockers WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.