NBA GM Poll: Knicks outside East’s Top 7 despite having best defensive coach

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

Just like last year, the NBA general managers keep on sleeping on Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks.

Despite the addition of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to a core that finished fourth in the East last season, the general managers around the league don’t see a top-seven team.

In the annual NBA GM survey released Tuesday, Knicks’ crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets emerged as the heavy favorites to win the title, netting 72 percent of the overall votes, followed by Los Angeles Lakers (17%) and Milwaukee Bucks (10%). 

The Knicks were nowhere to be found among the Eastern Conference’s top seven teams. According to the general managers, the Nets, Bucks, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, and Indiana Pacers are better than the Knicks.

But this is the least of concern of Thibodeau, who likes their chances once he gets the same buy-in as last season.

“It doesn’t really matter what outsiders think,” Thibodeau said in the training camp. “What matters is what we think. And we have an understanding of what we’re doing each and every day. And we understand we have to do it together.”

“I think you go into every season and we feel if we’re doing the right things, the results will take care of themselves.”

Naysayers view the Knicks’ surprising fourth-place finish in the regular season as a fluke, inflated by the COVID-related absences of key players of the other teams and the crowd-less games for most of the season. The playoffs exposed the chinks in the armor of the overachieving Knicks.

Leon Rose and his front office tried to plug those holes with the addition of Walker, a four-time All-Star who had knee issues in the past two years, and Fournier. Walker ranked fifth on the list of the most underrated player acquisition.

They have also added two defensive-minded rookies who can shoot the lights out in Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride to add more depth to a roster that can go as deep as a 12-man rotation. McBride, the 36th pick, also received votes for the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft.

The Knicks’ front office was also recognized for their prudent decisions, getting votes in the list of teams that made the best overall offseason moves.

Thibodeau, who won his second NBA Coach of the Year award last year over Monty Williams, isn’t considered a top-five head coach in the league next season. Heat’s Erik Spoelstra topped the list for the second year in a row, followed by Williams, Quin Snyder, Gregg Popovich, and Mike Budenholzer.

However, NBA GMS overwhelmingly picked Thibodeau as the top head coach with the best defensive schemes. He also received votes in the head coach who makes the best in-game adjustments.

“Understand what goes into winning, do everything you can to help the team win, and if we get the whole group doing that, we like our chances. There’s no easy way to do this. The teams are good, all 30 teams have great talent so you have to find a way to win games,” Thibodeau said.

Finding that edge is one of Thibodeau’s strongest suits as he has the uncanny ability to squeeze everything he can from his team.

With the crowd returning in full force this season, the Knicks were voted third behind Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets as the top teams with the best home-court advantage.

That will be in full display starting Tuesday when the Knicks host the Pacers in a preseason game at 7:30 p.m. in the Garden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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