This was supposed to be the year of the New York Knicks.
After many seasons of constant struggles, problems, and false starts, fans of the Knicks were certain that this time would be different thanks to the power of Julius Randle, a deep bench, and the coaching knowledge of Tom Thibodeau.
However, the team currently stands at 11-12 and is the 11th seed in the East.
What problems are plaguing the Knicks and how can they fix them to get back on track before they fall too far behind?
3. Too Much Randle
Randle is an amazing basketball player and the Knicks are smart to build the team around him.
However, Thibodeau needs to go easy on the big man, or else he is going to exhaust him and lead to a lower point production or, worse yet, injury.
Right now Randle is putting in 35.4 minutes a game and has started every single game.
Carrying around a 250-pound body for 35 minutes a night isn’t easy and lately, Randle has looked exhausted although he has kept his spirits high.
Julius Randle is confident the Knicks will find consistency
"It's 22 games in, a great run could put us at the top of the East within 2 weeks" pic.twitter.com/ecWEvlaaml
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) December 3, 2021
When he is on the floor, the team relies on him for nearly every play and it just wipes him out, especially when it’s night after night.
If the Knicks want to stay strong all season and get better, they need to give poor Randle a break every now and then.
2. The Starting Lineup Isn’t Working
The recent permanent benching of Kemba Walker was a sign that Coach Thibodeau’s starting lineup isn’t as cohesive as he had hoped.
In the first part of the season, the starting squad of Walker (now Alec Burks), RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson had a net rating of -15.7, which placed them among the worst starting or bench lineups in the entire Association.
Burks replacing Walker will likely help some but it won’t solve all the problems.
Considering they’re 0-3 since Walker left, he obviously wasn’t the only issue.
The truth is that the team is lacking in defense (more on that in a minute) and doesn’t have the offensive ability to keep up with the rest of the league.
They often rely on isolation plays that rarely pan out, especially since Fournier’s three-point shooting output has declined recently.
There needs to be more fire in the Knicks starting lineup if they want to crawl back into playoff contention.
1. Defense? What Defense?
The biggest issue for the Knicks is their defense, which is downright awful.
The Knicks are 15th in offensive rating but they’re a stunning 24th in defensive rating.
They’re also one of the worst teams when it comes to contesting three-pointers, with an opponent average of 13.48 three-pointers per game.
Barrett and other teammates have admitted that they lack grit and toughness when it comes to defense.
"We've just got to fight. At the end of the day, all the X's and O's, all that doesn't matter. If we're gonna play defense, we've got to fight and fight together for the whole game and do whatever it takes to win."
– RJ Barrett pic.twitter.com/EXgh1NuKel
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) December 4, 2021
He’s not wrong, they’re being consistently outplayed and outsmarted by plenty of other teams.
There really is no reason for this since they’re neither a small nor slow nor stupid group of guys.
Thibodeau and his team need to give more downtime to Randle and improve their starters’ output but they really need to laser focus on their lacking defense if they hope to live up to the lofty expectations of their fans.