Despite playoff loss, Knicks seem to be heading in the right direction

Although the New York Knicks were bounced from the playoffs on Wednesday night, the franchise seems to finally be headed in the right direction.

By Stone Lexington

Updated: June 2, 2021 • 11:50 PM ET

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Madison Square Garden - Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re a fan of the team or not, the NBA is better when the New York Knicks are relevant.

The Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 this season, and although they lost their first-round series to the Atlanta Hawks in five games on Wednesday night, the latest Knicks season has to be considered an overall success.

Finishing with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Knicks overachieved this season. New York finished the regular season with a 41-31 record, far more wins than many had projected for a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since Carmelo Anthony patrolled the hardwood in Madison Square Garden.

Lacking a star on the roster entering the season, unless you count former MVP Derrick Rose, several Knicks players had promising outputs. Forward Julius Randle became a first-time All-Star, averaging a staggering 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists per game. Second-year shooting guard RJ Barrett took a positive step forward, upping his scoring average from 14.3 points per game in his rookie season to 17.6 points an outing in his sophomore campaign. Barrett also improved his three-point shooting percentage from 32 percent to 40 percent, while also increasing his free throw percentage from 61 percent to 75 percent.

Also of note was the play of rookies Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin. Quickley finished in the top 10 of all rookies in scoring (11.4 points per game), while Toppin showed flashes of his potential in the playoff series against Atlanta. And let’s not underestimate the job the front office did this season, led by Leon Rose, Scott Perry and William Wesley, not to mention head coach Tom Thibodeau.

It’ll be interesting to see what Randle’s future is with the team, as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. Rose will become a free agent this summer, and it’ll also be interesting to see if he’ll be back in a Knicks uniform next season. Whether Randle and Rose re-sign with the Knicks, the young core of Barrett, Quickley and Toppin appears promising. And although the other team in New York is littered with superstars, the Brooklyn Nets’ attempted takeover of the Big Apple has been halted by the surprising play of the Knicks this season. A Nets championship this season may not even make them the most popular team in New York.

Playoff basketball was back in The Garden this year with an atmosphere that was energetic and raucous. While the Knicks were beaten by another young and talented team, led by an ice-cold magician named Trae Young, the franchise finally seems to be headed in the right direction.

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