Everyone says it every year: The NBA is a lot better when the New York Knicks are good. Yet, the Knicks haven’t been good for a very long time. New York whiffed on key free agents.
Players are no longer sufficiently attracted to the Knicks just because Madison Square Garden is a cool place to play basketball. Players need to know they’re going to a good organization where they have a real chance to win because no one wants to play for a losing franchise.
Kevin Durant went to the neighboring Brooklyn Nets instead, Kyrie Irving did the same and the Knicks haven’t been able to land that big fish.
The Knicks’ home-grown players and new arrivals have to be able to generate enough optimism that bigger names might newly consider going to New York and from what we’ve seen early on, there is some optimism.
Obi Toppin looks like a nice piece and we’ve seen some decent development in R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Immanuel Quickley. With a new head coach in Tom Thibodeau and another new front office, is this the time that the Knicks have finally got it right?
For now, NJ sports betting apps and their oddsmakers aren’t really buying it. The Knicks will start the 2020-21 season as the longest shot to win the NBA championship as no other team has a longer chance. We’ll see if they can surprise a few people and bring some excitement back to the Garden.
New York Knicks 2021 Odds
- DraftKings Odds To Win Division: +22000
- Regular Season Win Total: 21.5
The Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach after they fired David Fizdale. Mike Miller was interim coach following the termination of Fizdale. Thibodeau was the next long-term move for the Knicks as they search for a winning edge.
The Knicks took Dayton forward Obi Toppin with the No. 8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
They surrounded him with big man Nerlens Noel, shooting guard Alec Burks, guard Theo Pinson (from June), guard Austin Rivers, forward Omari Spellman, and draft pick Immanuel Quickley.
The Knicks Will Succeed If…
Elfrid Payton finds a groove. Payton began his career with the Orlando Magic, a very quiet NBA media market. Now he is playing in the big city and has to deal with the pressure of representing the Knicks.
Yet, his Orlando career was not all that special. Payton faces the unique challenge of needing to grow as a player while also facing more scrutiny in New York.
That seems like a situation bound to fail, but if Payton can overcome his doubters and turn heads with his level of play, the equation for the Knicks will change, because they need a dynamic scoring point guard to open up the court and get the defense to react.
This will in turn open up the court and give the Knicks’ wing shooters a chance to get high-quality shots over the course of the regular season. Payton is one of the most central hinge-point players for the Knicks this season. It’s not ridiculous to say that as he goes, the Knicks go in 2021.
The 2021 Knicks Will Fail If…
R.J. Barrett can’t overcome the mediocrity surrounding him. Barrett was the “other guy” in the 2019 NBA Draft. Everyone knew Zion Williamson was going No. 1 to the New Orleans Pelicans, and everyone knew Ja Morant was going No. 2 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Barrett was the No. 3 pick by the Knicks. He was viewed as being several notches below Zion and Ja. That assessment has turned out to be accurate thus far, but Barrett is in his second season as a pro.
It is way too early to finish the book on his career and his ceiling. If Barrett can raise that ceiling, the Knicks might have cause for optimism… but if Barrett can’t become a far more dynamic player, there will be no magic in Madison Square Garden this season.
The Knicks are in the same division as the Celtics, Raptors, Nets, and 76ers, which means they’re in the same division as four other loaded teams.
Each of those squads will be aiming to not only compete for a division crown and a playoff spot, but also an NBA Championship. That makes it really tough for the Knicks to make some noise.
The other challenge is that no one on the Knicks inspires any confidence that this season can create a noticeable turnaround…at least right now. That’s going to be the goal of the year: to find and develop a young foundation for the future.
The Knicks are going to be buried at the bottom of their division but they can provide hope for the future.
Prediction: 5th in Atlantic Division