Knicks: A comprehensive breakdown of the first 20 games

Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3
Jan 22, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) dribbles past Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph (9) in the first quarter at the Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The first 10 games lifted the fanbase’s expectations. The next 10 came with a mixed bag of ups and downs but the Knicks are headed in the right direction.

Playing meaningful basketball in the month of February might seem like the lowest set bar of expectations, but the New York Knicks are doing just that. Inspired by the exciting play of rookie Immanuel Quickley, and molded by the unwavering philosophy of all effort, all the time head coach Tom Thibodeau, these Knicks are in playoff position, in a surprisingly competitive Eastern Conference.

When we last checked in with the Knicks, their .500 record was a product of Alec Burks hot shooting, the emergence of Austin Rivers, a top-10 defense, *slight* forward progress in the developments for RJ Barrett/Kevin Knox/Mitchell Robinson, and Julius Randle’s All-Star production.

The next 10 games have brought more inconsistent play, highlighted by questions about the starting lineup. That being said, it’s clear that if the Knicks fail to make the playoffs for an eighth straight season, it won’t be for lack of effort or a cohesive plan on both ends of the floor.

Let’s review the top positive and negative trends of the 2020-2021 season part 2.

Offensive and Defensive Efficiency:

At the 10-game mark of the season, the Knicks were serving fans a top-10 defense, and after 20 games, they’ve improved on that standing. Currently, the orange and blue rank third in defensive rating, fourth in rebounds per game, and first in opponent’s points per game.  In a league where regular-season box scores often mirror an All-Star game, the Knicks have held five teams to under 100 points, and have held teams like the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, and Milwaukee Bucks under their per-game scoring average this season.

Watching the games, it’s not hard to see why they succeed on defense. Rotations and close-outs have been a clear emphasis for Thibs, and the players are executing his gameplan.

On offense, it’s been a different story. Currently, the Knicks rank 24th in offensive rating, (which is a slight improvement from their 10-game mark) however, they still rank dead-last in both, three-point shots attempted and made, and overall, they rank 22nd in three-point percentage.  The only glimmer of hope for a modern-NBA shot profile comes from, where the Knicks rank within the 4thth percentile in shot attempts at the rim and within the 11th percentile in shots from the corner three spot. Without any changes to the roster or lineup, it’s hard to see how these numbers will change much in a positive way.