The Knicks were last season’s biggest surprise by finishing with the No. 4 seed in the East after being projected to be near the bottom of the league. After a disappointing first round exit to Atlanta, what can Tom Thibodeau do for an encore in his second season? The majority of last season’s core is back, and Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have been added to help an anemic offense. The Knicks want to go superstar hunting on the trade market eventually, but for now they’ll settle for being scrappy and competitive with a little more scoring juice.
The Knicks shocked the basketball world last season by securing the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and everyone is expecting a backslide this year in an improved, healthier East. But the Knicks have also improved, and if Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose stay healthy, this squad has the talent, depth and toughness needed to secure a top-six seed and avoid the play-in game for the second straight year.
Walker and Rose both succumb to injuries, and the remaining youngsters in the backcourt can’t step up to fill their shoes. Rose in particular was the engine that drove the Knicks on those rare evenings when Julius Randle wasn’t clicking last season. Honestly, though, sophomore Immanuel Quickley and rookie Miles McBride manning the point would still be an upgrade over last season’s starting PG, Elfrid Payton.
The Knicks are going to the playoffs again. I know...it feels as weird for me to type it as it is for you to read it. But this team is just too damn good. Last year’s pop-gun offense will improve with the additions of Walker and Evan Fournier, as well as the growth of hungry young talent like Quickley, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. The defense might slide a bit, but Tom Thibodeau won’t let it slide too far.
The growth of RJ Barrett. Barrett was left off just about every offseason list of the league’s best young players, and he’s ready to take his revenge on the league. The growth he demonstrated as a second-year player was incredible, and he spent the summer learning the art of the pull-up jumper. With Walker and Fournier spacing the court, Barrett will feast.