By Ciaran Farley
Twenty-one games into the 2016-2017 NBA season, the New York Knick are off to their best start in four years. Despite starting off with 3 wins and 6 losses, the Knicks have gone on a 9-3 run over their past 12 games to surge back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, where they are currently tied for the third seed in the conference.
The team has been boosted by the growth of Rookie of the Year runner-up Kristaps Porzingis and the performance of newcomers Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings. Porzingis has built off his solid rookie season to become one of the better power forwards in the league; he is currently averaging 20 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. His improved outside shooting has opened up the offense for all other Knicks players. Former MVP Derrick Rose has contributed 17 points per game, which is essential to help ease the scoring burden on Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis. Backup point guard Brandon Jennings has provided a fulcrum for the bench’s offense and defense. Despite coming off the bench every game, Jennings leads the team in both assists and steals. Franchise player Carmelo Anthony has been dependable as ever, averaging 23 points per game. He is still the team’s best player in his 7th season with the team. After seeing this promising start, Knicks fans want to know: Is this team for real, or is it just fool’s gold?
Unfortunately for Knicks fans, the numbers suggest that this team’s record is better than what they are. The Knicks have faced easy competition after a rough start; only five of their wins came against teams that currently have a winning record. While it’s expected for less of their wins to come against good teams, their inability to beat teams on a similar level as them, such as the Celtics, suggests that the Knicks would be an easy out in the playoffs. The Knicks score 104.8 points a game as a team and give up 106.3 a game, a -1.5 point differential. Such an unsightly differential is closer to a team barely winning 45% of their games than a bona fide playoff contender. The Knicks will probably regress to a .500 team, meaning they will win about half of their games, which should be just enough to take them into playoffs. This would still be a welcomed outcome in New York, as the team has missed the playoffs the past three years.