Why Knicks Won't Make a Deep Run in 2021 NBA Playoffs
For a franchise that has previously tried to rush the roster-building process, it seemed like another ill-fated attempt at hitting fast-forward. That is, of course, until the Knicks started winning now—and winning big.
New York has more than playoff dreams; it has an opportunity to make actual noise in the 2021 NBA postseason. If the campaign closed today, the fourth-seeded Knicks would be hosting a first-round series.
This is all a massive accomplishment, and it's important to keep perspective in mind. While Knicks fans surely won't like reading our reasons why their playoff stay won't be a long one, it's imperative to remember they're already playing with house money having trampled over all realistic expectations for this group.
Collective Lack of Playoff Experience
Hopefully Thibodeau, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson retained a lot of the lessons learned during their previous playoff trips with the Chicago Bulls, because this roster doesn't have many other postseason memories to pull from.
All-Star leader Julius Randle is about to make the first playoff appearance of his seven-year career. Same goes for starting point guard, and Randle's 2014 draft classmate, Elfrid Payton. It will be the debut postseason voyage for the entirety of this team's youth.
But even the veterans are light on playoff exposure.
This will be Rose's first playoff trip and Gibson's second since 2015. Nerlens Noel has two playoff appearances to show for his first six seasons. Only three of Alec Burks' first nine seasons reached the playoffs. Reggie Bullock, an eight-year pro, has logged all of 27 minutes in four career postseason games.
Given how much changes in the postseason—the stakes, the pressure, the atmosphere, the detailed scouting, the adjustments—these Knicks might need to take their lumps together now to be better prepared for them in the future.
The Offense Isn't Playoff-Ready
If the old adage about defense winning championships were true, the Knicks would be in great shape. They've been the fourth-most efficient team at that end.
The problem is two-way balance is the real key to postseason success; it just doesn't make for as snazzy of a coaching slogan.
New York doesn't have the offensive weaponry to compete with detailed and focused playoff defenses. The Knicks, who rank 20th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in true shooting percentage, can't expect Randle to keep working miracles against defenses specifically keyed on containing him.
RJ Barrett is becoming more efficient, but that's a work in progress, and he still isn't doing much that helps his teammates. The Knicks' next top three scorers are all subs—Rose, Burks and Immanuel Quickley—and they could struggle to maintain their production when they're no longer beating up on regular-season bench mobs.
Roster Is Incomplete
For all of the positive developments this season, New York's decision-makers know their work has only just begun.
The Knicks stumbled into a star with Randle, who posted some decent numbers in the past but never impacted winning like this. They're still in the market for another, and they don't necessarily want to just wait to see if Barrett can fill that void. In fact, they're said to be willing to part with picks or prospects for a star.
"They're going to be in the mix when a star becomes available," a source told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "That's been the plan."
This isn't a knock on the current core, it's just reality with this roster. The Knicks might be ahead of schedule, but the picture they collectively paint is incomplete. In an ideal world, the success they've enjoyed this season and their reappearance on the playoff stage will help bring a star to town down the line. When that happens, maybe New York will be ready for a lengthy postseason stay.