Knicks are ‘more talented’ than team two years ago


There are similarities between this year’s Knicks and the version from two years ago.

Both teams entered the season with low expectations and were resilient during tough stretches early in the year.

They each proved their detractors wrong and enjoyed surprisingly strong regular seasons.

There are also differences.

“I think we’re a better team,” Julius Randle said. “Another talented team.”

The 2020–21 team finished the Covid-shortened season in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 41–31 record and a .569 winning percentage.

This current group is 39-27 winning at a .591 clip through 66 games.

A fourth-place finish is realistic as the Knicks enter Monday with 16 games behind the Cavaliers.

Julius Randle is confident the Knicks are better than they were two years ago.

Both rosters are very different.

It is short with what feels like a very high top.

For example, Jalen Brunson is the point guard, giving the current version a major edge at the all-and-important position.

Alfrid Payton started for the team two years ago, although Derrick Rose played key minutes off the bench at point guard.

RJ Barrett and Emmanuel Quickley are better players than they were two years ago, and Mitchell Robinson is healthy.

The rim-protecting 7-footer broke his foot and appeared in just 31 games that season.

The Knicks are fifth in offensive rating and seventh in NET rating (points outscored by opponents per 100 possessions).

Two years ago the editions were 22nd and ninth respectively. It was fourth in defensive rating, giving it an edge over the current Knicks, who are ranked 14th.

Julius Randle celebrates the Knicks' win over the Pelicans on Feb. 25.
Julius Randle celebrates the Knicks’ win over the Pelicans on Feb. 25.
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The big question is one that won’t be answered for a while: Can the Knicks do better in the playoffs than their predecessors, who lost in five games to the Hawks in the first round?

“We’ll see. I can’t really talk about it yet,” Randle said. “We’re not in the playoffs yet, so I don’t want to talk about that. But I definitely think this is a team. is taking the necessary steps every day and is definitely getting better.

Randle was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after leading the Knicks to four wins and averaging 29.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

Robinson played a career-high 44 minutes in Sunday’s double-overtime win over the Celtics.

He was outstanding in 10 minutes of overtime, grabbing four rebounds and playing quality defense.

Mitchell Robinson scored during the Knicks' win over the Celtics on March 5.
Mitchell Robinson scored during the Knicks’ win over the Celtics on March 5.
USA Today Sports

He defended Al Horford’s potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer of the second overtime, at least partially influencing the shot that came up short.

“He’s obviously of great value to the organization as a whole but especially [to] His teammates, his coaches, because he does a lot of the dirty work that you need to win,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The Knicks are 27-17 when Robinson plays and 12-10 without him.

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