• Cameron Tabatabaie

Can the Knicks Actually Compete in the Playoffs?

At long last, the New York Knicks are headed to the postseason. And that’s great news.

The Knickerbockers are one of the NBA’s marquee franchises. New York fans carry with them a healthy dose of history, snarl, and flair. Basketball is just better with the Knicks in the fold.

Though these Knicks defend with pride and poise, the offense leaves something to be desired. A roster of vagabond veterans and unproven rookies only complicates things.

Whether this team is a flash in the pan or a new force to be reckoned with, though, remains to be seen.

Regular Season Heroes

We knew Tom Thibodeau was going to make an impact on the Knicks. Yes, his previous stint in Minnesota was not particularly successful, but this is an exemplary professional coach we’re talking about. Thibs and the new front office were destined to make a major culture change.

And sure enough, this is a very different New York team. The Knicks were a top-5 defense all year long. Whereas last season NYK ranked 23rd on D, this group really thrived on the defensive side of the ball.

The offense was a little flat. Prior to the arrival of Derrick Rose, New York required heavily on Julius Randle. Even now as the playoffs begin, the Knicks offense isn’t particularly dynamic.

The Knicks were able to succeed playing stellar defense in a regular season severely lacking in effort on that side of the ball. The postseason is a completely different beast.

How the Knicks can succeed

If the Knicks defense holds, look out. There truly has been a stark lack of D across the NBA this season. Totally understandable given the squeezed schedule and wonky nature of pandemic year, mind you, but that means a few teams might be taken by surprise when the game slows down and opponents actually strap in on defense.

This is a chance for the Knicks to shine. Especially in round one against the Hawks, New York may be able to blitz Atlanta early and set the tone by (metaphorically) punching Trae Young and Co. in the teeth a little.

On offense, Julius Randle has the keys to the car. He’s a fringe MVP candidate and may even earn All-NBA honors. Randle turned in 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists a night, anchored by an impressive 41.1 percent from three.

This was Beyblade’s best year as a pro, and ultimately The Knicks will go as far as Randle can take them.

Unfortunately, relying on a single star player for a deep postseason run is rarely sustainable. And though Randle has been exceptional this regular season, it might be too big of an ask.

Players like Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton will need to step up. As powerful a weapon the defense may be, the Knicks need some juice on offense, too. These guys can help.

Where the Knicks will come up short

Ultimately New York isn’t ready to truly compete. The team needs another bonafide stud, and currently relies too heavily on unproven talent or NBA journeymen.

It’s exciting to see Nerlens Noel, Payton, and others find a way into the postseason. But unless we’re looking at a true Cinderella story, there’s probably a reason these players haven’t been effective playoff pieces before.

Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin need more time, however exciting and intriguing they may be. This team just needs a little bit of tinkering and time.

Against the Hawks in the opening round, the Knicks really have a good chance. Randle may well be the best player in the series, which usually bodes well in the NBA playoffs.

Against Philadelphia, Brooklyn, or Milwaukee it’s unlikely New York has what it takes. The Sixers and Bucks play their own brutal defense, while the Nets simply have too much firepower.

New York is a fun team, but likely over-achieved during the regular season. In the playoffs the limitations of this roster, especially on offense, will likely do them in. The future is bright for the Knicks, but this isn’t their year.