3 Takeaways from Knicks' November Performance

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 2, 2021

3 Takeaways from Knicks' November Performance

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    November wasn't kind to the New York Knicks.

    Their 5-1 start to the 2021-22 NBA season was all but erased over the span of a 6-9 month in which they finished 22nd in net efficiency.

    Kemba Walker struggled to the point of being removed from the rotation, while both Julius Randle and RJ Barrett tried and failed to get their offense on track. Let's dig deeper into the top takeaways from the month.

Kemba Walker May Never Be the Same

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    The feel-good story of Walker's homecoming is already finished.

    That's not to say he'll never contribute for the Knicks again, but a return to Madison Square Garden never perked up the Bronx native the way so many had hoped. More or less a scoring specialist, he only cracked double-digit points in four of his 12 November outings and was benched for the finale.

    "It's a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. "I view Kemba as a starter, and so it'd be tough to play three small guards together."

    Walker's point production wasn't enough to keep him on the floor, and given the 31-year-old's recent trouble with knee injuries, it's possible that could be the case going forward. He wasn't scoring with any efficiency (39.1/29.6/87.5 shooting slash in November), and he was a statistical drag on the defense, which has allowed 15.5 more points per 100 possessions when he plays than when he doesn't.

Knicks Will Go as Far as Julius Randle Can Take Them

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The Knicks spent the summer giving their offense options beyond Julius Randle.

    That's why they ponied up to keep Derrick Rose and Alec Burks, while adding Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Those pieces might help—Walker not to much anymore, apparently—but Randle remains the solo figure in the spotlight.

    He averages 5.1 assists, and no one else is at even 4.0. His 19.4 points per game tower over the 14.0 supplied by second scorer, RJ Barrett. In November, Randle shouldered a 27.1 usage percentage. No one else in the rotation topped 24.0, and the closest starter was Barrett at 22.6.

    This is Randle's offense, and New York's ceiling for success will be set by him. That's fine if he starts resembling the All-Star he was last season, but it's not great if he continues at his current clip (18.9 points on 42.0/32.1/72.9 shooting in November).

Second Scorer Role Is Waiting for RJ Barrett to Claim It

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    Hakim Wright Sr./Associated Press

    Evan Fournier has shown flashes of shot-making. Derrick Rose has dialed back the clock more than a few times. Alec Burks played his way into the starting lineup and topped 20 points in his first two starts.

    None of that changes the fact New York needs RJ Barrett to serve as its second option.

    The Knicks have plugged him into that role, but he hasn't responded. His numbers are down almost across the board from last season, and the decline only worsened in November. He averaged just 12.8 points for the month (he was at 17.6 last season) while shooting 36.3 percent from the field, 29.2 percent from three and 67.4 percent at the line. He also averaged nearly as many turnovers (1.7) as assists (1.8).

    New York's offense, which ranked 25th for the month, has more layers than last season and should be more formidable. For that to happen, though, it needs its best players to get themselves on track.


    Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.