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Knicks Inconsistent Start Magnified By Tough Schedule

julius randle knicks
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Knicks 2-3 After First Five Games

After four games, the New York Knicks see themselves at 2-2. They had two impressive victories over the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks continue to own the self-proclaimed “King of New York” as Trae Young struggled mightily, going 4/16 from the field and six turnovers. Young is now 9-14 against the Knicks, including the playoffs.

The Knicks’ other win was Tuesday night over the shorthanded Cavaliers. However, the Knicks still played phenomenally and continued to own the Cavaliers, who they also eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Their losses were against a very solid team in, the Boston Celtics and the New Orleans Pelicans. The Celtics game was fine as it was a close game, and they still almost won despite Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle struggling. On the other hand, the Knicks were flat against the Pelicans as it was so far the worst game they played this season, as they were held to under 90 points. They also lost most recently to the Cavaliers in a rematch Wednesday night, where they were once again held to under 90 points.

Inconsistency & Tough Schedule Hurting The Knicks

Part of the inconsistency the Knicks are facing so far this season is due to a rather difficult schedule. Opening night, the Knicks played against the Celtics, who are not only one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference but also one of the best teams in the league, and only lost by four points. The Knicks should have won that game if they did not miss 12 free throws.

The Knicks played other solid teams such as the Hawks, the Pelicans with a healthy Zion Williamson, who are an under-the-radar team, and the Cavaliers twice, who are also very formidable opponents. However, even though it was just five games and against good teams, the Knicks cannot continue to trade wins and losses.

Some Starters Pulling Their Weight

Brunson continues to impress and build off of his career-high 24 points last season. This season, he is averaging just 20.6 points due to his struggles in the losses against the Celtics and Pelicans. However, he is shooting the ball so far at a career-high from three at 46.4%. Historically, Brunson has not been a good defender; however, this season, he has looked better, averaging 1.2 steals per game and a +/- of +10.

After entering year five, RJ Barrett has finally looked like the player Knicks fans had hoped he could become when he was drafted third overall in 2019. He leads the team with a career-high 21 points per game. He is also shooting the ball at a great rate, with career highs in field goal percentage (45.3%) and three-point percentage (42.9%). On Back Sports Page’s basketball “Cut The Nets,” I have referred to Barrett a few times as “StarJ,” as he has been promising. Hopefully, he can continue to play at that level for the rest of this season and in the postseason.

In addition to his offense, Barrett’s defense has been spectacular so far this season. Especially on opening night, when Barrett was the primary defender, opponents shot just 3/11 for 27.3%, which is great.

Up and Down Bench Contributions

Immanuel Quickley is looking for vengeance for two reasons, one of them being robbed of Sixth Man of the Year last season after a career-high 15.8 points per game last season. The other reason he is motivated to have another solid season is due to he and the Knicks failing to reach an extension before the deadline. Quickley is looking for a contract similar to his teammate Brunson’s, whether it was with the Knicks or not. Isaiah Hartenstein is going nuclear off the bench in offensive rebounds. He is the only bench player in the top 20 for most offensive rebounds this season, placing him 16th in the league.

Donte DiVincenzo, the newest Knick on the roster, was awful in his Knicks debut, going 0-4 from the field and 0-3 from the charity stripe in 15 minutes. However, he responded nicely in the win against the Hawks, scoring 16 points with a steal and a block in 20 minutes.

The other bench wing player from Villanova University, Josh Hart, has been awful so far to start the season. He is averaging a career-low 4.8 points per game as well as career-lows in field goal percentage (36.8%), assists (1.2), and steals (0.5). Hart also has the lowest +/- on the team at a -16 on the team. Hart’s defensive struggles have mainly been due to going up against players bigger than him, such as Dean Wade.

What Changes Need To Happen

One of the biggest changes the Knicks need to make is Julius Randle needs to step up. Randle is averaging just 13.2 points per game. Even worse, he is not taking smart shots and shooting career lows from both the field (27.6%) and three (25.8%). As the second-best player on the team and a reigning All-Star and All-NBA player, he needs to step it up.

Another change that needs to happen is Quentin Grimes needs to play better. His three-point shooting is supposed to be one of his specialties, and he is shooting a career-low from three this season (30.8%). The more frustrating part is he is missing the wide-open threes that are generally easy shots for him.

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Brian Ramos is a contributor on Back Sports Page. Along with receiving his B.A. in Sports Communications, he has over a year of experience in the sports industry and has interviewed a variety of people in the sports industry, such as Mac McClungJulius RandleBobby Portis, Don La Greca, Adam Schefter, and others. In addition to writing, Ramos has called women’s lacrosse and baseball on ESPN+. Ramos has a podcast on YouTube called Cut The Nets, along with his co-host Jeremy Gretzer. You can find Brian on Instagram at @Brian.ramos0219 and Twitter at @brianramos0219.

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