New York Knicks: 5 big questions for 2021-22 NBA season
The New York Knicks began their campaign on an impressive note in a double overtime victory over their archrival Boston Celtics. The team was led by first time All Star Julius Randle as he tallied 35 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists, while new acquisition Evan Fournier recorded 32 points, six rebounds, and four steals.
As New York tries to sustain their surprising run last season, there are still five questions surrounding the franchise and how it could another leap and continue being one of the consistent contenders in the loaded Eastern Conference. The best arena in the world in Madison Square Garden have heightening expectations for the Knicks, and the Tom Thibodeau-led squad.
Will Knicks starters get exhausted by playoff time?
With Thibodeau’s style of coaching, he relies on a core every single game; he expects them to play over 30 minutes every single game. He is also known to have grueling practices compared to other head coaches in the NBA because of his disciplinarian and authoritarian style of coaching. Randle and RJ Barrett were two of the healthiest NBA players last season, but the risk of injury may increase due to the taxing demand for the Knicks.
With the upgrade from Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock to Kemba Walker and Fournier, New York has vastly enhanced their backcourt rotation. Walker had some lingering knee issues over the last seasons which could be a headache for the Knicks, but they could mitigate that loss because of Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley. As the bench has improved, the injuries and exhaustion could be less of a concern this season for New York.
Is Julius Randle a number one option for a team expected to make a deep playoff run?
Before he departed from the Los Angeles Lakers, Randle was not expected to have a fantastic run he had from last season. He led the Knicks from to a fourth seed in an unprecedented season as he took a massive leap by galvanizing his teammates to flourish under the bright lights of MSG. However in the first round series versus the Atlanta Hawks, he was locked up by the duo of John Collins and Deandre Hunter in a five game series.
If the Knicks want to make an impressive run in the playoffs, Randle must continue evolving his game because he is the best player on his team. The other youthful players will improve as well, but the leadership of Randle will be the aspect of his game wherein others will focus on.
Who will the Knicks to go in crunch time?
In their first victory of the season for the Knicks, Fournier was excellent in the latter part of regulation along in both overtime periods because of his timely conversions from behind the arc. In his stint with France in the Olympics, Fournier proved that he is capable of being the finisher for a contender in the biggest stage.
The hurdle that Fournier and the Knicks must overcome is the consistent performance during the final minutes of a match. When defenses lock down and focus on that side of the floor, the team had trouble manufacturing offense over the last previous seasons.
As the Knicks acquired Fournier and Walker, these two phenomenal guards must prove to be the perfect go-to-guys to aid Randle in their closing lineup.
Who are the defenders the Knicks can count on to defend the best in the East?
With the plan of the Knicks to improve on their first round exit from last season, they will eventually compete against the superstars of the Eastern Conference, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and James Harden.
Even if the Knicks have one of the best defensive systems in the league, there is still the necessity to have hard-nosed men, like PJ Tucker or Patrick Beverley in their squad.
The backcourt of Fournier, Walker, Quickley, and Rose will have an atrocious time defending the backcourt of the Miami Heat or Brooklyn Nets. Even with the front court interior presence of Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and Nerlens Noel, it will be insurmountable for them to even contain Anteokounmpo, Durant, and Joel Embiid in a seven game series. Additionally, when these superstars rack up a ton of buckets, the Knicks still have that question mark of competing on the offensive spectrum as well.
Who will ascend to another level from the young studs?
As Barrett has become more effective as a second scoring option last season, he must still become effective with his field goal and free throw percentage. In the game against the Celtics, Barrett converted back breaking threes that may spell the difference in certain regular season games for the Knicks.
Quickley, Robinson, and Obi Toppin must also exceed expectations for the Knicks to expand their options, especially in the second unit. Robinson had a sensation double double to begin the year, but the challenge for him is to remain healthy because his interior defense are one of the best in the association. Quickley and Toppin could provide that spark off the bench to aid in the scoring responsibilities of the first unit.
With the commendable chemistry and camaraderie of the Knicks, meshing together as a well-oiled machine may propel New York to improve on their performance come playoff time.