The Knicks have also struggled with injuries: Alec Burks, Austin Rivers and Obi Toppin have all missed time — three offensive-minded players.
Something the Knicks have in their favor is that this season has produced lots of strange results, and not just for them. Night after night, in part because of the shortened season, no crowds, the pandemic and minimal time in training camp, lots of teams are losing big or to opponents who did not seem like threats. Some teams, like the Toronto Raptors (2-8), who are based in Florida because of the virus, are underperforming. Several top players, like Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Nets’ Kevin Durant, have missed multiple games because they tested positive for, or were potentially exposed to, the coronavirus.
The shortened season helps the Knicks in another way. Banking wins early on gives them cushion against the losses that are almost unavoidable as the season grinds on. But it is still early, as Knicks fans learned in 2018.
Here is a look at what’s gone right and wrong for the Knicks so far.
The biggest reason the Knicks have been competitive this year is Julius Randle, who has started off strong. Randle is averaging 22.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game — all on pace to be career highs — on 49.4 percent shooting. He is averaging more assists this year than his last two years combined. If he keeps this up, Randle should deservedly make his first All-Star team.
He looks more comfortable on the floor, and Thibodeau has been adept at taking advantage of Randle’s versatility — for example, making sure he’s getting the ball on different parts of the court, rather than simply trying to bulldoze opponents in the post. Randle is skilled at creating for his teammates. The issue is that the Knicks don’t have many playmakers or shooters around him to ease his burden.