Somehow, the New York Knicks are only five games out from the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They have won three straight games- their longest win streak since November 2018.
After starting the season 4-18 under head coach David Fizdale, the Knicks fired Fizdale and replaced him with assistant coach Mike Miller. With Miller interim, the Knicks have respectively gone 6-6.
In November I said the Knicks should be patient with Fizdale since the rebuilding Knicks were not ready to compete yet. Twelve games into Miller’s tenure and the Knicks have played much better under him. I stand by my sentiment but may have been wrong about keeping Fizdale specifically.
The Knicks defense held opponents to below 100 points only twice through their first 30 games. Over their last three games, the Knicks have held their opponents to below 100 points two times. The bar is low but there have been signs of defensive improvement!
Individual players have performed better under Miller. In the offseason, I said that Julius Randle will lead the Knicks in scoring this season. However, Randle struggled under Fizdale and only averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds while struggling with his percentages.
Under Mike Miller, Randle is averaging 24 points and 10 boards while significantly improving his percentages. According to NBA Analyst Tommy Beer, dating back to Dec. 10, only three other NBA players are averaging at least 20 points and ten rebounds: Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. Randle is playing like the underrated elite talent I thought the Knicks had signed and has been playing so much better since they changed coaches.
RJ Barrett has been struggling
RJ Barrett had the worst month of his professional career in December. Barrett shot a garbage .351% while only averaging 11.7 points with 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists. For reference, Barrett averaged 14.2 points and 3.7 assists in November. Barrett has struggled with his shot all season sitting at .385%.
Barrett has played much better at home than away. He averages 16.1 points while shooting .441% at MSG compared to averaging 11.1 points and .329% shooting away.
Overall, Barrett is averaging 13.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for the season. For a 19-year old, it is hard to complain about these numbers. Barrett has been showing glimpses of being the franchise player the Knicks drafted third overall in the 2019 Draft. Barrett isn’t the first rookie to struggle with their shot and certainly won’t be the last.
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