In their first 7 games in the 2020-2021 season, the Knicks were set to play the Pacers twice, the Sixers, the Bucks, the Hawks, the Raptors, and the Cavs (with the previous 4 games being on the road). A lot of people expected them to be way below .500, mainly because of their bottom-tier roster and the very good teams they had to play, however, they have walked away with a 4-3 record and have won 4 out of their last 5.
The Knicks haven’t started over .500 after 7 games since the 2011-2012 season, so let’s take a look to see what has been the reasons for the Knicks’ strong start.
Julius Randle: Before the season, basically every single Knick fan wanted to see Julius Randle gone. Randle was known for spinning into double teams, turning the ball over way too much, having the ball in his hands too much, and taking some seriously questionable shots. However, this season, Julius Randle has looked like an all-star. So far he is averaging 22,1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists shooting over 54% from the field and over 40% from 3. Even though he is still turning the ball over a good amount, Randle has looked for his teammates a lot more and is actively trying to move the ball or get a good shot.
Immanuel Quickley and Austin Rivers: I am putting Quivers together because they both have been out for most of the season so far, however, when they both have played they have led to us winning. Quickley and Rivers are both guards that spread the floor, something Payton can’t really do, and that helps the offense so much. Quickley has looked like an absolute steal, looking like a veteran with all of his drawn fouls, shooting the lights out of the ball, making the offense move a lot more fluid, and overall made the Knicks look like a better team when he is on the floor. Rivers has hit some very key shots for us, against the Hawks and Pacers, and just like Quickley, he makes the offense look a lot smoother when he is on the court.
Tom Thibodeau and the Coaching Staff: This summer we saw a complete revamp with out coaching staff, as Thibs became the head coach and brung in a large number of new assistant coaches. Thibs has been incredible so far, making the right substitutions, and getting the best, with the help of assistant coaches, (particularly Kenny Payne who has helped our former Kentucky players a lot like Randle and Quickley) out of our players. Thibs is a coach who only cares about the win, so he will put out the 5 best players who are playing the best (giving us the best chance to win), no matter if it is our star or the last guy off our bench. Thibs has always been known for his defense, and his influence is showing on this Knick team who is a top 5 defensive team in the league as of now.
Alec Burks: Alec Burks has missed the past couple of games, but when he has played he has been an absolute flamethrower. He is averaging 20+ ppg, and he is right there with Quickley for the best shooter on our team. Burks has been efficient and doesn’t like to hold the ball in his hands for an excessive amount of time. Burks has looked like a steal from FA, playing like he is back on the Warriors.
I also have to give shoutouts to RJ, Mitch, Noel, and Bullock, who have all been crucial pieces to the teams’ success. RJ has had some sloppy games, but has looked very good overall, Noel and Mitch still can’t shoot anything over 5 feet, but their rebounding and intensity on defense have really helped, and Bullock has been just pretty solid all-around (specifically on defense).
Payton has had some good games and some bad games, but you do have to give him credit for constantly driving and hitting the layup/floater, or passing to the wide-open man (usually Mitch).
Let’s hope the Knicks can continue winning games, and hopefully, Obi Toppin can come back soon!