The New York Knicks are currently riding a high that is unprecedented in the NBA. With the establishment of super teams, a moderately talented team like the Knicks shouldnâ€™t be playing as well as they have been the past few weeks.
Having won 12 of their last 13 games and their latest two performances being fantastic, the Knicks are preparing to take on some of the league’s best opponents on the West Coast this week. It will provide them a quality test ahead of the postseason as the regular campaign dwindles to a close. They currently stand in the fourth seed, having locked in a playoff spot for the first time in years. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and two games ahead of the Miami Heat. However, teams like the LA Clippers and Lakers present significant challenges and could easily derail this budding team full of youth and veteran talent.
Jeff Van Gundy, who helped teach Tom Thibodeau, had a few choice words for the Knicks, who undoubtedly have a tough road ahead.
â€œYou canâ€™t get any more out of a moderately talented team than Tom has,â€ Van Gundy said. â€œBut you donâ€™t win 60 games or go deep in the playoffs with a moderately talented team. So this is going to be all about the roster, and who you find, and who you pay from this group, and who you move on from.
We will see what this team is made of come the postseason, and rosters with more depth and starting talent turn on the afterburners. The Knicks have steamrolled average to below-average teams, which is expected from great squads, but their only loss of the past few weeks was against the Phoenix Suns, one of the best teams in the NBA.
They felt the wrath of Chris Paul toward the end, and they essentially took Julius Randle out of the contest and limited his production, which severely hurt the Knicks down the stretch. Better teams with quality defenses will do just that against them, meaning they will have to be consistent in all phases.
â€œA lot of these players are in the last year of their contracts. If you paid them all, would you get the same type of performance or better next year? Thatâ€™s why, to me, the summer is the hard part.â€
Van Gundy has a point, a lot of the current Knicks players are on the final year of their contracts, including Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton.
However, New York has plenty of money to spend next off-season, and while I imagine they will retain some of their key pieces, preferably Rose and Noel, they will also look to pair Randle with another star player. Luckily, they have a few youth players who are developing very nicely in Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett.