Isay: New York Knicks exceed expectations

Benjamin Isay '22 thinks that the Knicks are making improvements and exceeding expectations this season, but that they are still lacking a star player.

Towards the end of the 2020 season – which was cut short by the pandemic – the Knicks fired their former president Steve Mills and hired former agent Leon Rose to replace him. Many had low expectations but hoped that their team would not be the laughingstock of the NBA for the first time in what feels like forever.  Fans begged Rose to make the simple, best decisions for the team: build the Knick’s roster through the draft, and don’t overspend in free agency (a common malpractice of previous regimes). 

Rose did what fans wanted this offseason. He drafted Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley and signed cheap veterans Austin Rivers and Nerlens Noel who have both been solid in their roles as bench players.  With the help of coaching and veteran players, the team has thrived. 

Veteran Julius Randle, who was a punching bag for Knicks fans last season with his below-average shooting and his poor passing ability, is playing a less selfish style of play this year: the team has improved as a result. He has had a massive turn-around since last year – when some fans were calling for him to get benched – and is playing at an All-Star level. 

While Obi Toppin has been injured for a large portion of the season thus far, a bright spot on the team this year has been Immanuel Quickley,  who was drafted by the Knicks at 25th overall. In limited playing time, Quickley has shown impressive poise and scoring ability for a rookie. He has avoid three point stroke, a strong floater, and his ability to draw fouls exceeds expectations for such a young player. In recent years, the Knicks have failed to draft impact players, and if Immanuel Quickley can continue his impressive play, he will be a source of optimism for the team’s future. 

RJ Barrett has also been quite impressive so far this season. Barrett was the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft but struggled in his rookie season.  Barrett’s bad luck behind the three point line has been an issue: he’s only made 30% of his three-point shots. However, due to his work over this past offseason, Barrett has become a better finisher. He has recently stopped settling for low percentage three-point shots, and started to become extremely aggressive on his drives to the rim. Over his last 10 games, RJ has scored almost 20 points per game with an efficient field goal percentage of 50.7%. Kawhi Leonard, one of the best players in the NBA, was impressed by RJ Barrett when the Knicks played the Clippers on January 31st.Sky’s the limit depending on how hard (Barrett) works and where his mental is,” Leonard said. “I like that he took on the challenge.”

The Knicks have exceeded fan expectations with their play so far. They’ve had a hot start with quality wins against the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Indiana Pacers. Still. But, they have also suffered losses against mediocre teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings.  It is clear that if the Knicks want to compete in the playoffs, they will need a superstar who can take them to the next level. They simply do not have that player yet.

Early victories have raised the hopes for a possible Knicks playoff berth. There is still a long way to go, but Knicks fans have good reasons to be hopeful for the future. 

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