The New York Knicks have made a massive turnaround from last season as they went from tragedy to triumph. Last season, the Knicks had a 21-45 record as they stood at the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the Knicks currently have clinched playoffs as they hold the 6th seed.
The team clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Carmelo Anthony led the New York Knicks in 2013 as they held the second seed in the NBA with an outstanding 54-28 record. However, the Indiana Pacers knocked the Knicks out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Forward to the 2019-2020 season, and the Knicks struggled in the Eastern Conference. But their roster did not change much from last season to this season. Yes, they added players, such as Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley, but what contributed the most to the Knicks’ turnaround of success?
Julius Randle’s Breakout Year
The most apparent reason for the turnaround is Julius Randle. He has had a breakout season as he cemented himself as a star in this league. Last season, he averaged 19.5 points, 3.1 assists, and 9.7 rebounds per game. However, this season Randle is averaging a double-double with 24.0 points, 5.9 assists, and 10.2 rebounds per game.
Julius Randle is averaging his best stats in his career. Furthermore, he elevates the Knicks’ offense by adding star power and a consistent scorer. Not only can he score from anywhere on the court, but he can also create shots for his teammates and rebound the basketball.
Moreover, his defense has been exceptional for the Knicks. Randle applies pressure on the opponent’s big man and plays with great effort and energy. This energy has helped the team improve their defense immensely in the past year.
“To say if I thought he could be at an All-NBA player, I never put a lid on a player, but the way he’s played in every aspect of the game. “Putting it on the floor, in the post—we always knew he excelled at that, but the playmaking, shooting the three, defensive effort, and all those things. He’s just had an impact on winning, which obviously is the most important thing, so they’re not empty stats. They’re stats that are meaningful.”-Tom Thibodeau
The Addition of Tom Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau signed a 5-year contract to become the Knicks’ head coach last year. Before Thibodeau, the Knicks’ head coach was Mike Miller. With Mike Miller, the team was one of the worst offensive and defensive teams in the league. However, this year, Thibodeau implemented his defensive style on the team, and the Knicks rank best in the league in terms of points allowed. They are ranked second overall.
Tom Thibodeau has been the perfect coach for Randle and the young Knicks’ team. His defensive style pushes the young players to play with energy and enthusiasm on defense. Furthermore, the team loves playing for Thibodeau, creating a better team atmosphere for all the players to shine.
“There’s no way in hell he shouldn’t have been coach of the month. … I don’t see how he didn’t win it. … But if you ask Thibs, he’ll say the most important thing is winning games.”-Julius Randle
Randle is right because Thibodeau brought in his defensive style to the team and completely changed the team atmosphere. Also, similar to Randle’s comments, Tom Thibodeau is not considered with awards but instead only focuses on winning.
“We’ve talked about it as a team for a while now, it’s important for us to continue to just take it as we have step by step, and we want to check things off as we go along. The first thing was you focus in on your opponent, take care of that, and then everything else should take care of itself. The first part was the play-in, then the playoffs, and now the highest seed possible, but you have to go step by step, you can’t skip over things.”-Tom Thibodeau
Thibodeau’s priorities are perfect for a young Knicks’ roster. He does not want the team to bite off more than they can chew in their first year together. However, he wishes to build a foundation for the future by keeping the team humble.
Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks have clinched playoffs for the first time since 2013 and look forward to the playoffs.