New York Knicks: Improvement or Paralysis?

Andrew Bondarev ‘22

The Knicks are a phenomenon, a code that many cannot crack, would they ever reach the 

heights expected of them eight years ago when Carmelo Anthony was at his zenith and the team had a three-pointer extraordinaire each night? They were the Warriors while the eventually-great Golden State squad was still rebuilding, setting the record in 2013 for most threes by a team in a season. Since that 2nd round exit, the Knicks have failed to reach the expectations of fans, year after year. First, the excuse was that Smith and Shumpert were lagging behind, then it was the team surrounding ‘Melo, injuries afflicting Porzingis, and lastly his exit to the Mavericks. However, there has been an unaddressed longing within the organization, an unheard call for change within the foundation of the Knicks themselves. James Dolan – at the heart of many of the teams’ free agency blunders, ghastly trades, and fan demoralization in the eyes of spectators.

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To much surprise, they traded for Derrick Rose in 2016, leading to another 32-win season and another failed attempt at playoff contention. When New York drafted R.J. Barrett in June 2019, new hopes were rekindled in the face of adversity. The tandem between him and Dennis Smith Jr. didn’t amount to anything in the 2019-20 season, and Leon Rose was hired as team President during the COVID-19 pandemic. His connections to players across the league were lauded as a positive and seen as an opportunity to attract new players and horizons to the ailed Knicks. The fans still have lingering disbelief in the management of the Knicks, and whether they could salvage what’s left of any talent on the roster.

New York Knicks' hot start offers reason for optimism about future | NBC  Sports

There are some nuances to the argument for their improvement and promise, nevertheless, as the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as the head coach of the Knicks has led many to believe in a future with an improved defense and roster. Will he be able to match up with the legacies of past Knicks head coaches like Mike Woodson, Van Gundy, or Pat Riley? It is too early to tell, but the Knicks have already been ranked the #1 defense in the league by opposing field goal percentage, with Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson anchoring the rim protection and paint. The Knicks’ 2020 draft pick Obi Toppin, seems to have some room for improvement, but he demonstrates promise in his athleticism and dunking ability. If his defensive tendencies can be refined by Thibodeau, the Knicks can absolutely use more strength on defense and can use his abilities to their advantage. Immanuel Quickley has been a shocker, putting his name in the conversation as one of the best rookies already in the season, despite being a modest 2020 draft pick. His average of 11 ppg with 31 points in 24 minutes, against the Trail Blazers, is nothing short of what the Knicks need in order to be competitive in the point guard position and to improve their attacking. Not only that, but Julius Randle has averaged 22, 11, and 6 all around, demonstrating fantastic abilities in the post and as a team player, which works well in Thibodeau’s system.

NEW YORK KNICKS on Twitter: "“We got into it together, we have to get out  of it together.” — Coach Thibodeau. Let's keep digging.… "

All in all, the New York Knicks have shown promising signs at the beginning of this season, despite being a less-than-stellar 8-10 as of January 26th. One can hope that with the expertise of Tom Thibodeau and an improving roster that they will be competitive for years to come, successfully completing the rebuilding process preached to the fans for years now. Their new pursuit of Derrick Rose in a possible trade is another testament to Thibodeau’s longing to create a system similar to what he had in prime D-Rose Chicago. If he can accomplish an updated and stronger version of this, that would be pivotal in a playoff push.