Knicks Biggest Takeaways from Opening Games of 2021-22 NBA Season
Their only defeat was a head-scratcher, as they somehow stumbled against an Orlando Magic team that may not win 20 games this year. But they thumped the same Magic squad by 25 points two nights earlier, so maybe they just snoozed through the second matchup.
More importantly, the Knicks scored an opening night win over the Boston Celtics (in double overtime, no less) and earned a double-digit triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, last season's No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
New York looks good. How good isn't clear yet, but whether or not the Knicks are good shouldn't be up for debate. That's the macro-level takeaway for the team. Instead, let's examine three micro-level takeaways about this roster.
Julius Randle Isn't Giving Up His All-Star Spot
It took Julius Randle seven seasons to play his way into an All-Star roster spot.
He apparently has no interest in giving it up any time soon.
His shooting rates are down, but just about everything else is up. His 25.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists are all career highs. Same goes for his 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals.
While the Knicks spent their summer beefing up their roster around Randle, he remains at the center of everything they do offensively. His volume might drop a tad as the newcomers get more comfortable, but his efficiency should theoretically rise as defenders are forced to give him less attention. Either way, he should have an All-Star-quality line one way or another.
Sharing Workload Could Bring Best Out of Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose
Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose are 30-something, score-first point guards who work best with the ball in their hands. They are also 6'0" and 6'2", respectively, and neither is particularly stingy on defense.
The redundancies run deep between them, in other words, so having them on the same roster could create issues. Well, that or it might bring out the best in both.
The Knicks are letting them tag-team the position, which always puts an above-average point guard on the floor. Neither needs to run himself ragged that way (Walker is at 26.3 minutes per night; Rose is at 23.8), and they should both be ready to empty the fuel tank since the other is always around when needed.
The shooting success of this partnership won't sustain to this degree, but so far it's been ridiculous. Walker is hitting 46.2 percent of his field goals and 52.0 percent of his threes, both career highs. Rose is at 47.6 percent from the field and 57.9 percent outside. If each man can keep the other fresh this season, they could form one of the most dynamic pairings at the position.
Mitchell Robinson Is a Difference-Maker
Nerlens Noel proved a suitable option at center last season, but a healthy Mitchell Robinson takes the position to a different level.
Players aren't supposed to have his combination of size (7'0", 240 pounds), athleticism and mobility. He can erase shots at the rim or stop drives from even happening on perimeter switches. Offensively, he's a rim-rocker who has missed just three of his 18 attempts.
"I played with guys that won a Defensive Player of the Year, and I feel like Mitch has that ability...to win that one day," Rose told reporters before the season. "... You always gotta keep an eye on him if you're a guard or you're a player going into the lane."
The Knicks weren't lost without Robinson last season, but they are better when the big fella is anchoring the interior.