Knicks' Complete Guide, Preview for 2nd Half of 2021 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2021

Knicks' Complete Guide, Preview for 2nd Half of 2021 NBA Season

0 of 3

    Mike Stobe/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks are getting the Tom Thibodeau bump.

    The Knicks are frisky. They play their tails off, they defend furiously and while their 24th-ranked offense isn't always easy on the eye, it can be when first-time All-Star Julius Randle is cooking.

    New York has a chance to book its first playoff trip since 2013. If that sounds like forever ago, that's because it is. Mike Woodson coached that team. Carmelo Anthony paced it in points. Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni were the top table-setters. It's been a hot minute.

    But the Knicks are in good shape—both to continue their postseason chase and to develop some of the youth on this roster.

    With their second-half schedule now released, let's look ahead at what awaits the Bockers.

Schedule Breakdown

1 of 3

    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    The Knicks have a playoff pulse, which is more than they have been able to say at this point of the season in quite some time.

    What they likely won't have, though, is any breathing room. They are clinging to the East's No. 8 seed but are just 2.5 games up on the 13th-seeded Wizards. They likely won't be building any in the near future, either, as the schedule-makers did them no favors for the second half.

    Before New York can breathe, it will be staring down the barrel of a four-game road trek to open the second half. The Knicks draw the Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers over a six-day stretch right out of the All-Star break.

    But that's not the biggest roadblock. That awaits them in May, when they pack nine contests into a brutal 15-day stretch. First, it's a six-game West Coast road trip that pits them against the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers in consecutive contests. Then it's back home, where they will close out the slate with a back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics, two teams they are jostling with for a playoff spot.

State of the Franchise

2 of 3

    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Fire up the treadmill-of-mediocrity takes if you must, but the Knicks are going about this season the right way.

    They aren't burying their long-term plans for immediate gratification.

    Randle, their leader in minutes (and just about everything else), is 26, so he's young enough to be considered a cornerstone. Up next in minutes is RJ Barrett, 2019's No. 3 pick who has shown almost across-the-board improvement. Then it's the 22-year-old Mitchell Robinson, who's learning how to defend without fouling and making a massive impact. Rookie Immanuel Quickley has the second-highest usage rate in the rotation.

    Sure, the minutes are being squeezed for Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox II and Frank Ntilikina. But Toppin is only 22 games into his career; there's plenty of time left to focus on his development. Frankly, there's no indication that Knox and Ntilikina are (or should be) part of the organization's long-term plans.

    Thibodeau might like to lean on a select number of vets—including prized pupil Derrick Rose—but those players aren't blocking the youngsters' ascensions.

    The question for this front office to tackle, then, is whether it might make sense to buy in the upcoming trade market or selectively sell off some of those vets for more assets. The hiring of Thibodeau and trade for Rose suggest the Knicks will opt for the former.

Potential Roster Moves

3 of 3

    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    One could argue (as I have) that it's in New York's best interests to take a seller's mentality into basketball's biggest swap meet. The Knicks have veterans other teams would want, and they could use more no-doubt keepers for the future.

    But the only opinions that matter belong to the Bockers brass, and they seem more focused on additions than subtractions.

    The Knicks are said to be "analyzing" a possible deal for Andre Drummond to help cover for Robinson's absence, per Marc Berman of the New York PostBerman also attached them to Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo.

    Those are varying degrees of big swings, but each player could offer a substantial on-court upgrade. Saying that, the cost could be significant, especially in Beal's case—assuming he even reaches the trade market.

    If New York doesn't take a home run hack, it will need to weigh the merits of making marginal upgrades or flipping some role-playing veterans for rebuilding assets. As long as the Knicks have the playoff carrot in their eyesight, they feel most likely to be angling for upgrades.


    All stats courtesy of and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.