The New York Knicks have underwhelmed for far too long since their last meaningful run in the NBA playoffs. The franchise last reached the post-season in 2013 and have endured miserable seasons in the seven years since, including two 17-win campaigns.
David Fizdale paid the price for another disappointing term, and Tom Thibodeau now has the responsibility of guiding the Knicks back to relevance in the league. However, it will be a tough task considering the talent available to the former Chicago Bulls head coach.
New York won only 21 games last season, placing them bottom of the Atlantic Division. Unfortunately for Thibodeau, the Knicks are now arguably in the most talented division in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets will all be competing for not only the division title, but also to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. It is highlighted in the odds in the NBA betting on bet365 as the Knicks are priced at +15000 to win the Atlantic Division. Thibodeau and his men have a tough road ahead, although the performances of the younger players on their roster could give them reason for hope in the future.
RJ Barrett had an impressive rookie season after being selected with the third-overall pick in the 2019 Draft. The 20-year-old played in the majority of his side’s regular season games, and averaged a solid 14.3 points per game along with 2.6 assists. Barrett produced in moments for the Knicks, notably a 27-point performance in their win over the Houston Rockets. There were enough positive points to suggest that he can take momentum and develop in his second campaign in the NBA. However, he is nowhere near ready to become the franchise player that the Knicks are craving to return to relevance yet. The task for Thibodeau is to keep Barrett on the journey with another solid term.
Julius Randle was the standout for the Knicks in the 2019/20 season. The 26-year-old enjoyed one of the best years of his career, averaging 19.5 points per game. Encouragingly for the Knicks, there is ample room for growth from the forward as talent develops around him. Thibodeau will be looking to ease the burden on Randle that could allow him more opportunities to put points on the board. Mitchell Robinson will play a crucial role and his presence will be vital at both ends of the court. The 22-year-old made progress in his sophomore campaign and could be ready for a breakout term, having built the foundations of his game over the past two years.
If the Knicks are committed to a policy of playing their youngsters to allow them to develop, rookie Obi Toppin should also be part of the line-up. At the age of 22, Toppin is slightly older than the usual first-year player and might be more mentally prepared for the rigours of the NBA. The forward produced two impressive years at Dayton, averaging 20 points per game in his final season at the college level. Toppin could become a solid points-scorer in his rookie year, further easing the burden on Randle.
Thibodeau and the Knicks could have a talented core of players at their disposal, although they may have to take their knocks in the 2020/21 campaign at first to gain the experience that will benefit them and the team in the years to come.