The New York Knicks are 25 games into the 2021-2022 NBA season, which is a little less than one-third of the NBA season. With a record of 12-13, it’s a large enough sample size to evaluate the team’s performance and determine the strengths and weaknesses of the roster.
There are a lot of weaknesses. Spoiler alert!
Time to break out my red pen because it might get messy.
Julius Randle – C+
The Most Improved Player from 2020-2021 put up career highs in almost every statistical category during last year’s magical season. Regression was bound to happen, but some of the numbers are alarming. Randle still leads the team in points/rebounds/assists with averages of 19.8/9.8/5.2. Those numbers would be stellar if Randle were the second option on the team. However, he remains the team’s best player, and anything less than 22 and 10 is unacceptable. What’s alarming is the dip in three-point percentage and free-throw percentage. Last year, Randle shot 41% from 3 and 81% at the line. This season, it’s 33% and 75%, respectively. Randle will be the first to tell you that he needs to elevate his game because if his play doesn’t improve, the Knicks will miss the Play-In game.
Kemba Walker – D+
This hurts, man. I wholeheartedly agreed with signing Kemba Walker after he took a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 2 years, 18m was a good flyer for a player that averaged 19 points a game since 2016. Besides a few scoring outbursts in the first quarters of multiple games, Kemba’s tenure with the Knicks has been a disaster. All of the defensive metrics with Kemba on the court are atrocious. Now, Kemba is out of the rotation, and will probably be traded or bought out at some point aka “The Austin Rivers.” I wish Kemba nothing but the best.
Evan Fournier – C-
Let’s get this one out of the way. I stand by my “Fournier is a solid player” take. His play will never live up to the contract, but I believed he could be the second-best player on this team. As of Dec. 10, I’m wrong. Fournier is Murphy’s Law. For every 20-point performance, there has to be a <10-point performance where he sits on the bench during the fourth quarter. Plus, Fournier is a liability on defense. If Fournier can’t make shots, he’s unplayable at the end of games.
RJ Barrett – C+
It’s been a roller-coaster season for RJ Barrett. He started the season with a bang, averaging 19 points per game with the highlight being a 35-point performance in New Orleans. Then, he forgot how to shoot especially from behind the arc. It’s actually painful to watch at times. I’m convinced he’s the best guy in the NBA at hitting the front end of the rim. However, Barrett has been more aggressive over his last two games including a 32-point performance in San Antonio. I like RJ a lot, but he’s been way too inconsistent for a guy that many believe should be the second-best player on the team.
Alec Burks and Derrick Rose – A-
The two most consistent players on the Knicks are Alec Burks and Derrick Rose. That is a real sentence I just typed. Both of these guys can create their own shot on the offensive side of the ball, which can’t be said about 80% of the roster. I hate to bring up “manalytics,” but as someone that’s watched every game, Burks and Rose never hide from the moment. They continuously want the ball in their hands at the end of games. Without these two, the Knicks would have less than 10 wins.
Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin – B
Bench mob, stand TF up! Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin have been godsends off the bench all season long. The duo are plus/minus standouts with IQ at +97 and Obi at +88 (second and third on the team). These young guys are both gym rats, and both improved on both ends of the floor especially Obi, who doubled his points per game from 4 to 8. Thibs has to consider giving more minutes to both IQ and Obi going forward.
Tom Thibodeau – B-
It’s unfair to put the team’s disappointing start solely on Thibs. This is a severely limited roster with no true closers at the end of games. However, the rotations to start the season did the team no favors. The defense is nowhere to be found at times. After ranking third in defensive efficacy last season, the Knicks are 23rd. The Knicks still play hard on a nightly basis, but the team has gotten exposed in the third quarter and at the end of games especially in close losses. That’s on Thibs.
Team Grade – C
Did I expect the Knicks to be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference again? No. Did I expect the record to be over .500 at the one-third mark of the season? Absolutely. It’s been a disappointing start to the season so 12 wins feels like a blessing with how poorly they’ve played at times. The Knicks will need to make a few trades to compete for a playoff spot. I still think this is a Play-In team, but the idea of returning to the playoffs will evoparate quickly if this doesn’t change over the next month. I believe in the Knicks, but I’m worried.
What are your grades for the Knicks? Leave them in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.