The New York Knicks are one of the big-money franchises in the NBA. They are, in fact, the most valuable franchise, but that has not translated to success in recent years.
Fans have been starved of postseason action at Madison Square Garden, and it was beginning to get frustrating. The 2021-22 NBA season looks promising for the New York Knicks, though. That's because they are likely to continue on an upward trajectory, and could be one of the top contenders in the East.
Replicating or bettering their fourth-place finish from last season might be a tall task, considering the caliber of teams in the East. The Miami Heat took advantage of the offseason, and brought in elite talents to help them compete in the upcoming season. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls might have turned things around with their offseason acquisitions, and are placed well to return to their glory days.
Despite the expected competition in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks, led by Tom Thibodeau, look well placed to shake things up in the East. While a championship run is unlikely for the Knicks in the 2021-22 season, a deep playoff run is likely.
On that note, here are three strengths that could be key to the New York Knicks' success in the 2021-22 NBA season.
#1 The New York Knicks have good 3-point shooters
The NBA has evolved into a shooting game, and the New York Knicks are not to be left behind. They ranked third in three-point shooting percentage last season, converting 39.2% on 30 attempts per game.
As many as six New York Knicks players shot above 40% from beyond the arc last season, with Frank Ntilikina shooting 47.9% on 1.5 attempts in 33 games. Barrett's improvement was the most noteworthy, as he shot 40%, an improvement of 8% from his rookie season.
The New York Knicks traded two of their sharpshooters (Frank Ntilikina and Reggie Bullock) in the offseason. But they replaced them with elite shooters who can also create. The acquisitions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier should boost the Knicks' scoring from all areas of the court.
Fournier shot an effective 46.3% from behind the arc in his short run with the Celtics. Meanwhile, Walker converted at 36% from the three-point range, but averaged 19.3 points. Considering the way the New York Knicks are set up, they could continue to excel from the deep.
#2 Backcourt depth
Elfrid Payton was the starting point guard for the New York Knicks during the 2020-21 season. But they lost him during free agency to the Phoenix Suns. Ntilikina was also acquired by the Dallas Mavericks during the offseason.
Nevertheless, the New York Knicks have made acquisitions of their own to shore up the backcourt with arguably more efficient scorers. Walker and Fournier are the two most high-profile signings that come to mind. But the Knicks also made a few other impressive decisions that should bode well for them this NBA season.
Thibodeau opted to hold on to Derrick Rose, and re-signed the veteran to a three-year $43-million deal. Rose's experience and defensive intensity could be a boost for the New York Knicks. During their 2020 playoff run, Rose was the best player on the court when the other Knicks players seemed overwhelmed by the occasion.
RJ Barrett also showed signs of improvement in his sophomore season, shooting at over 40% from the three on 4.3 attempts. He could also take things up a notch this campaign. Walker's injury history might be a source of concern, but the veteran seems to be at 100% so far in the preseason.
The New York Knicks' depth in the backcourt could go a long way in maintaining their productivity all game long. Given the struggles the Knicks have in scoring the ball in the frontcourt, a lot would be riding on their backcourt efficiency.
#3 The New York Knicks are solid defensively
Defense is one of the New York Knicks' strongest suits, and they will look to use that to their advantage in the 2021-22 NBA season. The Knicks re-signed their defensive anchor, Nerlens Noel, in what was arguably their best move of the summer.
The New York Knicks ranked third in defensive rating last season, behind the LA Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers. They could reach the same heights this season. The Knicks agreed a $117-million deal with Julius Randle, who was the best player at both ends of the court.
For his exemplary performances at both ends, the New York Knicks forward earned the Most Improved Player award that season. While the defense could lack a bit, as they lost their best perimeter defender (Bullock), Barrett, who finished third in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, could step up for the Knicks.
Good defense is a recipe for success, so the New York Knicks have that going in their favor.