New York Knicks, Building to play-off 2021 – 2022

This post tries review the stage where the New York Knicks team is this season 2021-22. After a great evolution last season where the team reach the play-offs, this year the Knicks have the challenge of staying in play-off position or to step back.

The map I have done is this one, and it’s based on this template where you will find the explanation of each concept.

The map

New York Knicks, Building to play-off 2021 – 2022

I have marked some components in red, as they are subjected to what James Nolan (owner) is willing to do. There have been always a lot of controversy of his manners with coaches, the fan base, the players, and this has created a culture where everything is conditioned by what the owner does or does not do.

This is to me one of the major weakness of the franchise. A franchise with a matured and loyal fan base, in a city that is considered a big market and a well known brand across the glove.

The addition of Tom Thibodeau last season was a great complement, the team has bought his style and they stick committed to the direction and identity envisioned by Tom: hard work culture, build from defense, commitment with the team over the individual, etc.

Julius Randle emerged last year to a different peak of performance and the fit with Tom Thibodeau has made him to be the franchise player they were looking for. At the end a long term contract extension was done. It’s unknown if Julius Randle is really a top player to lead a franchise to be a contender, but the bet done by New York Knicks is clear. These following two years this question should be answered.

They are playing as a team, and their fit last year was great. The addition of RJ Barret , Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker is very positive, but they need time to evolve (specially Barret).

Other point of improvement is the defense, specially Fournier and Walker are being the target for mismatches so the opposites can punish that weakness.

Looking into team potential conflicts

In the sport teams there are tensions, positive and negative. I will use this conflicts classification to try to cover the situation in the New York Knicks:

Generic source of conflicts

This year after the signature of a long term contract by Julius Randle (it’s using a great portion of resources limited by salary cap), he is facing the pressure to compete at the next level. This pressure comes from the contract and from coach Thibodeau (pushing him to the next level). In addition to that RJ Barret is doing great numbers, he is averaging more points than Randle (jurisdictional ambiguities).

I can imagine that personality clashes is arising too, so let’s see how they resolve their internal tensions and how they end the regular season.

Tensions being represented in orange, with Julius Randle in the middle

Roster contracts

Looking at the roster contracts, the key players have stable contracts, so if they play well there is contract stability to continue the construction of the team:

New York Knicks current & future salary payroll figures for players on the active roster

The key questions for this season

  • Will James Nolan leave the team to execute their season?
  • Will the team reach the play-off?
  • Will Tom Thibodeau be able to handle the team conflicts?
  • Will the key players evolve in a positive way? Barret, Fournier, and specially Randle.

This is the first analysis I do using this concept, I hope the nomenclature and the visualization of the franchise context is clear and understood.

Update January 2024

I have updated the map, as during these 2 last seasons many things have changed in the Knicks.

The team has moved from trying to be a play-off team to be a strong play-off team close to be a contender.

The main changes in the team have been:

  • Jalen Brunson added to the team in 2022-23 season, after Dallas was not able to get an agreement with him.
  • Jalen Brunson demonstrated to be the natural leader of the team, enabling Julius Randle to focus on his role and decreasing a little bit the stress of the leader.
  • O.G. Anunoby have been added this January, causing an immediate positive impact on the team.
  • James Dolan continues leaving the team to work.
  • The Knicks are a team you can recognize, they have their own identity and you know what you can expect from them.

The contracts are right now as follows:

  • Well balanced roster.
  • Jalen Brunson has a decrease contract structure.
  • The bad news is Evan Fournier, that is not playing and they have not been able to trade.

Any constructive feedback is welcome.

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