The New York Knicks have ended the first half of the 2020-21 NBA season on a high note. Heading into the All-Star break, the New York Knicks are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings after making a 19-18 record start to the season; they are only 0.5 games behind their conference rivals, the Boston Celtics.
Considering their impressive form this season, the New York Knicks could sustain the same the rest of the campaign and reach the playoffs after almost a decade. The last time the New York Knicks made the playoffs was in 2013 when Carmelo Anthony wore a Knicks jersey.
Three reasons why New York Knicks could return to the 2021 NBA playoffs
At the start of the season, the New York Knicks appeared to be in rebuilding mode. But they have surprised all and sundry with their quick turnaround.
The man behind their success is new head coach Tom Thibodeau, who has transformed the New York Knicks into an elite defensive unit. The signing of veteran elite Derrick Rose is another indicator that the New York Knicks have set their eyes on returning to the NBA playoffs.
On that note, let's check out three reasons why the New York Knicks could make it to the NBA playoffs this season.
#1 The New York Knicks defense
Tom Thibodeau has accumulated an impressive resume during his time in the NBA, the most notable of which has to be his defensive contributions that powered the 08' Boston Celtics' championship.
Working under Doc Rivers, he then took on a bigger role as the head coach for the Chicago Bulls, where he enjoyed decent success.
This season, Thibodeau has brought his defensive attributes to the New York Knicks, moulding a grueling defense that doesn't let up for the entire duration of games. That has served as one of the biggest reasons why the team which retained most of its players from last season has suddenly evolved into a potential playoff contender.
The New York Knicks defense has been dominant this campaign. That is evident in the Knicks ranked second in the league, one place below the defending champions, the LA Lakers, in the category.
They have managed to keep opposing teams within 104 points (second-best this season) while consolidating their position as one of the top-tier rebounding teams as well.
#2 Julius Randle taking his game to the next level
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle is very much deserving of his first trip to the NBA All-Star Game this season.
The 26-year-old has impressed in his second year with the New York Knicks as he continues to evolve into a better player. Randle has been the driving force behind the team's success in the first half of the campaign, marking a significant jump in his numbers across the board.
The former LA Lakers' man is averaging a career-best 23.2 points on 48.3% shooting from the floor in 37 games thus far. He has been a playmaker in offense, dishing out 5.5 assists on top of his improved scoring average.
Randle's improvement as a scorer has not come at the cost of his defense, as he is registering 11.1 rebounds, out of which 9.6 have been at the defensive end of the hardwood.
Provided they don't endure a slump in the second half of the season, the New York Knicks could ride on the exploits of Randle to snap their long playoff drought. If that happens, Randle will do down as one of the best New York Knicks since the turn of the century.
#3 The New York Knicks have a perfect mix of young and veteran players
The New York Knicks are looking good for a playoff push, as their current roster has a decent balance of energetic young players and crafty veterans.
It wasn't a surprise to see Tom Thibodeau make a move for Derrick Rose. The two go way back together. The New York Knicks also snapped up another former Chicago Bulls player Taj Gibson this season.
D-Rose takes care of things at the offensive end with his flashy acrobatic moves and knack for scoring the ball in volume. Both Rose and Gibson could provide the New York Knicks young guns with valuable advice to get them going when the going gets tough.
The New York Knicks are also witnessing a youth movement, with rookie Immanuel Quickley coming out strong this season, while RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton have been playing their roles successfully so far.
The trio is averaging an impressive 41 points between them this campaign. Barrett, in particular, has done well, securing his spot as the second scoring option behind Randle on most nights.
RJ Barrett and Quickley could reach new heights with more playing time and have the perfect setting to do so under the New York Knicks coach Thibodeau.