There’s no denying the fact that New York Knicks are enjoying one of their best seasons in a long time. Going into March 2023, they have found themselves at fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 39-27. Many basketball fans and analysts have been left wondering what has been behind the Knicks’ resurgence this season so let’s take a look at a few of the factors.
Firstly, one of the biggest boosts for the Knicks this season has been the continued success of head coach Tom Thibodeau, the seasoned NBA coach with a reputation for being a defensive mastermind.
He previously led the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves to the playoffs and in his very first season after moving to New York in 2020 he did the same for the Knicks – the first time that they had achieved this since the 2012-13 season. It also saw him winning his second-ever Coach of the Year award.
In a relatively short time his emphasis on defense has transformed the Knicks into a gritty, hard-nosed team that is tough to beat. So much so that the current NBA odds even have the team well-placed to take the championship this year. If they do it will be exactly half a century since they last achieved the feat.
It’s certainly going to be a tall order, but they do have a number of points strongly in their favor. One of the principle ones, and a key factor in the Knicks’ success this season, has been the continuing emergence of Julius Randle as a standout star of the team. He has undoubtedly proved himself to have been the Knicks’ best player by far this season, averaging 25.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game.
He has also been a matchup nightmare for opponents, using his size, strength, and versatility to score in a variety of ways.
Randle’s improved shooting has also been a key factor in his success this season. He is shooting a very impressive 46.8% from the field and 35.5% from three-point range. And it’s not for the first time that he’s been on the receiving end of MVP chants from fans – with a real chance of making it come true this season.
Of course, it takes more than one individual’s performance to make a team and the Knicks can certainly boast about having strength in depth.
Thibodeau has done an excellent job of managing his rotations, and the Knicks have a combination of players who can contribute in a variety of ways. One standout in particular has been Jalen Brunson averaging 23.9 points and 6.2 assists per game. RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Josh Hart have also provided iunvaluable contributions off the bench.
Above all, the quality of the squad has allowed the team to withstand burnout, fatigue and injuries, such as Brunson’s recent scare, a crucial factor in their ability to maintain their high level of play throughout the season.
Also instrumental in the Knicks’ success this season has been their chemistry and team culture. Thibodeau has built a solid unit of hard-working, selfless players who are committed to winning and who have also developed a winning mentality.
Anyone who witnesses them in action can see that they play unselfishly on both ends of the court, and have no room for prima donnas. This has been more than evident in their ability to come back from deficits, win close games, and play well in the tightest of situations.
Looking at a more technical catalyst for their success, it’s also impossible to overlook that their success this season has also been due in part to their improved shooting. In past years, this is one area in which they have faced real issues, particularly from beyond the arc. But this time it has been a very different story – an improvement that has been due in part to the contributions of players like Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes, who are both excellent three-point shooters.
Finally, the Knicks’ success this season has also been thanks to the comparative weakness of many of the teams in the Eastern Conference when compared with the Western.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some very strong teams in the East, with the Bucks, Celtics and 76ers standing out in particular. But there are also the Pistons, Hornets and Magic who all make for fairly easy pickings when the opponents are as strong as the Knicks.
It’s also fortunate for the team that the remaining fixtures leading up to the play-offs should hold no real surprises for them. That said, basketball is nothing if not unpredictable.
So, no doubt, Thibodeau is making sure that every single member of the squad knows that this is no time to take the pedal off the metal if they really do want to be first over the finishing line.