Now is the Time to Bet the Knicks to Make the Playoffs

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle and guard RJ Barrett.
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle and guard RJ Barrett. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are making the playoffs in the 2021-22 season, and I’ve already placed my wager on them to do so. 

Sure, the Knicks are +12500 to win the NBA title and +5000 to win the Eastern Conference at WynnBET, but I think we are forgetting that the Knicks are in the same position that they were last season. 

New York was 21-21 through 42 games last season as well, but came on late in 2021, going on a nine-game winning streak at one point while winning 16 of their final 20 games. 

Obviously, we can’t bank on that happening again, but the Knicks have made some major strides since getting several players, such as RJ Barrett back from the health and safety protocols. 

New York started the season off terribly at home, but it has now moved to 11-11 at Madison Square Garden this year. It’s not a huge leap, but it’s a minor improvement that will help this team make it into the postseason this season. 

Let’s get into a few reasons why you’d be wise to back New York as a playoff team while there is still a ton of value with it sitting at 11th in the Eastern Conference. 

The Knicks Are Back to Playing Dominant Defense

The calling card for any Tom Thibodeau team is how hard and well it will play on the defensive end. 

Last season, the Knicks were in the top five in the NBA in defensive rating, opponent 3-point percentage and opponent field goal percentage. However, the acquisitions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier didn’t work out right away, as the team slipped defensively while still struggling on offense. 

The goal of the Knicks’ offseason moves was to prepare for a potential step back for Julius Randle (which has happened) after he had a career-year in the 2020-21 season. However, the Knicks had to sacrifice some defense for offense, but it appears Thibodeau has gotten his team back on track. 

Over their last 10 games (since Christmas Day), the Knicks are No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating (102.9), No. 5 in rebounding percentage (51.9 percent), No. 1 in opponent field goal percentage (42.2 percent). No. 5 in opponent 3-point percentage (32.0 percent) and No. 1 in opponent points per game (95.4). 

Yeah, the defensive Knicks are back. 

Like any team, it takes time to acclimate new players to the roster, but Thibodeau has found a rotation and scheme that has clearly helped this team turn things around defensively.

If this continues, we saw how great New York was in the regular season with this defensive effort, and it could signal another second-half run. 

The Bottom Half of the Eastern Conference Is WIDE Open

The Knicks are the No. 11 seed in the Eastern Conference at the moment, but they are three games behind the No. 5 seeded Philadelphia 76ers and two games behind the No. 7 seed Charlotte Hornets. 

There isn’t a major gap that the Knicks have to make up, and as we’ve seen with several of these teams above them, there are weaknesses to be exploited. 

The Washington Wizards have been fading since a hot start, the Cleveland Cavaliers are coming back to earth, especially with Ricky Rubio out for the year, the Hornets are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, and the Boston Celtics, despite their two stars, have been wildly inconsistent. 

The Knicks have their flaws as well, as the offense has been putrid at times and the team is just 7-13 after a win this season, making it extremely hard to make a move up the standings. 

With the play-in tournament back this season, New York has a legit chance to at least move up to the No. 8 spot and give itself two chances to win one game to make the postseason field. 

Plus, if the Knicks do go on a run at some point in the second half, there’s a chance they can leapfrog several teams with how close the rest of the conference has been. 

Derrick Rose Will Bring a Huge Boost

Derrick Rose underwent surgery on his ankle in December, but he is expected to return for the Knicks at some time in late February or early March. 

Rose was arguably the Knicks most valuable player this season, as the team is plus-9.2 per 100 possessions with him on the floor. 

Rose’s impact can’t be underestimated, as New York was 24-11 with Rose in the lineup last season. If the Knicks continue to stay afloat with Rose out, they will only be stronger down the stretch ahead of the playoffs. 

Depth, Depth and More Depth

As we’ve all seen in this COVID-19 pandemic, NBA teams are in desperate need of depth due to players getting placed in the health and safety protocols. 

The Knicks went through their own bout earlier this season, but Thursday’s addition of Cam Reddish in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks furthers the Knicks’ depth in the rotation. 

Last season, we saw the Knicks flame out in the playoffs because of the lack of scoring around Randle. 

Now, with Barrett having a resurgence since coming off the COVID-19 list, Evan Fournier starting to find his footing and young players like Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and hopefully Reddish ready to make an impact, the Knicks have one of the deeper teams in the NBA. 

The bench unit has been one of New York’s strengths all season, but with more guys to mix and match, Thibodeau can really get creative if a player is having an off night. 

The East is crowded, but there isn’t a team right now that is playing better that has the value that the Knicks do to make the postseason.