The most recent report from the Brooklyn Nets is that stars Kevin Durant and James Harden could return for the Monday night matchup with the New York Knicks. When asked about potentially facing off against the Nets’ “big 3”, Knicks guard Reggie Bullock stood by his team. Bullock responded that the Knicks have their own “big 5” and that he is confident that is his team can play competitive basketball against one of the league’s top teams.
Bullocks’ comment reflects the type of culture and camaraderie that coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled in the team since arriving last summer. Bullock used the time to address how the Knicks would approach the game and how the team steered away from focusing on the opposing team.
We’re not really concerned about their big three. We know what type of basketball we’ll be able to come into the game and play. We’re focused on our team, the game plan that coach draws up. But other than that, that’s all we’re focused on – the Knicks.Knicks guard Reggie Bullock
This “team first” mentality has paid off for the Knicks. The team is on track for their first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season. While the last month was not the team’s best performance-wise (6-7), the team still ranks high in many statistical categories. The team ranks 9th in three-point percentage and averages the 10th-lowest turnovers per game.
The defense has been a huge turnaround for the team since last season. After roughly 50 games this season, the Knicks also have the fourth-best defensive rating. The team does well of forcing opponents into low-percentage shots as well. The Knicks’ opponents have the second-lowest effective field goal percentage in the entire NBA this season.
All-Around Effort From the Knicks
While All-Star Julius Randle headlines the team, New York’s role players have stepped up in a big way this season. Randles’ post-game helps generate offense for the rest of the team. He ranks 3rd in points per post-up possession with 0.94 (minimum 4.5 possessions per game). His ability to hit a post-fade jumper or finish strong at the rim usually commands a double team when he is operating in the post. This has opened up opportunities for the surrounding players on the perimeter, like Alec Burks.
In March, Burks averaged 12.8 points per game while shooting 39.7% from three on 5.2 attempts per game. His spot-up shooting ranks in the 67th percentile, according to NBA Stats. Bullocks spot-up shooting ranks in the 87% percentile, and guard Frank Ntilikina ranks in the 88%. Randles’ talent has created opportunities for teammates, and they have been converting.
Center Nerlens Noel has also stepped up big in Mitchell Robinsons’ absence. While his traditional stats don’t look great, his hustle and vertical spacing have been big for New York. Noel ranks 12th in the league in offensive rebound percentage (minimum 2,000 possessions). While Robinson remains the long-term solution at the center spot, Noel has carved out an important role for the team in his absence.