Knicks’ free agent gem blossoming into integral player as 2021 season wears on

The New York Knicks didn’t make any significant moves at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of winning big games. They came extremely close to overcoming the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers last week, and some say they’re missing that extra offensive piece to push them over the edge. However, you could argue that their current roster is capable of winning games against playoff-caliber teams, they just need more time to build chemistry and live-action.

With the way second-year stud RJ Barrett is developing, it seems as if the Knicks will be in good shape moving forward, considering they still have All-Star Julius Randle and Derrick Rose preparing to make a return in the coming days.

One FA gem has proven to be huge for the Knicks:

One low-key gem the Knicks signed in free agency is turning out to be one of their more integral pieces, and his name is Alec Burks. At 29 years old, Burks has been a productive player this season, averaging 13 points over 26 minutes per game. Against the Wizards on Thursday evening, Burks scored 27 points off the bench, going 8-for-18 from the field and hitting 9-of-11 free throws.

It seems as if Alec just does it all, ranging from his aggressive defense to scoring in big moments. His fourth-quarter clutchless has been undervalued all season, but the Knicks are finally beginning to realize he must be on the floor when they need point production. As an adequate shooter, Burks isn’t afraid to launch shots from anywhere on the court, and he’s deceivingly smart with his court vision and dealing the ball with his teammates. His ability to get into space is something that the Knicks have enjoyed lately, and head coach Tom Thibodeau values.

“He just does it all. There’s not any one particular thing. But he’s real good in a lot of different areas,” Thibodeau said of Burks after Thursday’s game. “He can run the team, he can play the point, play off the ball, put it on the floor, can shoot the three, can finish over size.

It’s not only Thibodeau who notices Burks’ value to the team, it’s his teammates as well, who feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands when it matters most.

“AB has been doing it all season,” said RJ Barrett. “That’s what he does. I’ve seen him every day, he’s working hard. Actually, we work out together almost every day. Just really happy to see him doing what he’s doing.

“He’s stepping up big-time for us. We need him and [I’m] very happy we have a guy like that on our team.”

While the Knicks are a young team, they rely on their veterans to carry the load in specific situations. Burks has proved to be a phenomenal free-agent signing this year, and if I were Thibodeau, I would want him around in 2022 as well.