Some New York Knicks are being recognized for individual regular season honors as the team prepares for their first-round playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks.
It’s not surprising, given their jump from lottery team to playoff threat this season. New York finished the regular season 10 games above .500, boasting an All-NBA candidate in Julius Randle.
The sixth-year forward was one of just two players (Nikola Jokic) in the entire league to average at least 24 points, 10 or more rebounds, and at least six assists per game.
Still, he wasn’t featured as a finalist for the MVP award.
Seventh-year big man Nerlens Noel’s two blocks and one steal per game averages weren’t enough to land him in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
He was the only player to accomplish that across the entire NBA for what it’s worth.
And potential steal of the draft Immanuel Quickley, selected 25th overall last year, didn’t finish the season as a finalist for the Rookie of the Year award either.
But everywhere else, the New York Knicks were well represented, highlighting a year where they’ve exceeded all expectations, and for once, are earning the recognition that goes with that.
After improving quite literally every area of his game, and going from unwatchable to All-Star, Julius Randle appropriately finished as a finalist for the Most Improved Player award.
His competition: Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons, and Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets.
New York Knicks fans will tell you, Randle is a shoo-in, and even outside of the fanbase, most folks would agree.
But don’t discount what Grant and Porter Jr. have accomplished this season, going from role players to sub-stars.
Denver, Detroit, and New York represent three teams on completely different points of the spectrum, but this award is individually based.
Still, one would think that Randle and the Knicks, right in the middle of the aforementioned totem pole of success, make the most sense for this one.
There was never an outcome where Tom Thibodeau, in his first season with the New York Knicks, didn’t land on the Coach of the Year ballot after bringing them this far.
His alterations on the defensive end alone should likely win him the award.
Thibodeau essentially took last year’s 21-win team to a playoff appearance, without any major roster adjustments.
Still, if anyone’s got a case to steal the award, most would tell you it’s Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns. He’s taken his team through a similar transition, albeit with the addition of Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul.
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, the final name on the ballot, should be considered just that: an honorable mention. His team went from a second-round exit in the playoffs last year to the best record in the NBA.
Is that still a significant jump? Yes.
Is it more substantial than what either of the other two accomplished? No.
And in a surprise twist, the New York Knicks’ mid-season acquisition of Derrick Rose actually lead him to being named a finalist for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
He’s considered the least likely to win it among the finalists, with the award bound for one of the two bench heroes on the Utah Jazz in Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson.
But still, it’s even more recognition for what has been an uncanny stretch of play for the former MVP. The Knicks finished the regular season 24-11 in games with Rose available.
And he’s averaging 14.9 points and 4.2 assists with the Knicks since being acquired from the Detroit Pistons.
And to think, his former head coach told warned him of little success if traded to New York.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
The same can be said for the state of the New York Knicks.
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