The Knicks had a good season in 2020-21, finishing with the 4th best record in the Eastern Conference but losing to red-hot Atlanta in the first round 4-1.
I predicted 35 wins in 72-game year, knocking on door of playoffs with Thibodeau replacing Mike Miller (who had done a good job last year) as coach — so making the playoffs was no surprise. I figured the Knicks would be a low seed (7th or 8th) so a first-round exit was expected too at start of season.
But Thibodeau got the Knicks playing a brand of ball that even I didn’t anticipate would be This good — on Defense and also Offense. So it was a disappointment that the 4th seeded Knicks were ousted by the 5th seeded Atlanta, even though Atlanta had the 3rd best record in the NBA after Nate McMillan took over as coach.
Disappointing 1st-Round Playoff Exit
And it was disappointing to see Randle struggle, even though Atlanta’s defense targeted him with double and triple teams. Barrett played well — I’d hoped he’d be more of an offensive juggernaut in the playoffs if Randle was being doubled — but again it was Capella at center stifling drives that caused Barrett and others trouble.
And of course as an Elfrid Payton fan it was tough watching him go into a slump at end of season. They could have used his D on Trae Young and penetrations on offense — but he was not his normal self at end of year and will probably not be brought back as a Knick.
Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks played great; hopefully they will be with Knicks for a long time. And Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson were terrific too. Obi Toppin looked real good in the playoffs and Immanuel Quickley plays with a fire and energy (and is a great shooter) that gives great hope for the future.
The Knicks getting hurt inside by Capella shows the importance that Mitchell Robinson has to this franchise; a good thing if it convinces the Knicks to invest in him long term.
The Future Is Bright
With Tom Thibodeau as coach, everything looks brighter than it had been for the future. The Knicks have a talented young team, and have tremendous cap flexibility. GM Scott Layden — who was not mentioned as someone making decisions in a mid-season report — apparently is still very influential in the Knicks player decisions, and that’s good news as he’s dome a good job assembling this cast and been prudent on spending.
The Knicks have a 26-year-old Julius Randle and a 20-year-old RJ Barrett as key building blocks, with 22-yr-old Mitchell Robinson another piece, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley as possibly other key pieces, and a lot of complementary players. And NY has good cap space and flexibility. The next few years are going to be fun to be a Knick fan.