New York Knicks: Exploring Tom Thibodeau’s impact on the Knicks

New York Knicks Tom Thibodeau (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Tom Thibodeau (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Tom Thibodeau has rejuvenated the New York Knicks. 

Tom Thibodeau’s impact on the New York Knicks has been evident through their recent progress and success as he has implemented his system and has the team running on all cylinders.

Thibodeau has had success as a head coach in the past has proven so far to be the man capable of resurrecting and reviving one of the worst franchises in the league over the past decade.

The success was expected to come eventually as no one envisioned or predicted that the Knicks would be in the middle of a playoff race at this point in the season as this year was expected to be another rebuilding effort and a chance for the Knicks to improve from last season’s dismal 21-45 record.

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But Thibodeau had other plans as these Knicks have become one of the biggest surprises so far as they have exceeded expectations in Thibodeau’s first season at the helm. Notably known for his defensive expertise, Thibodeau has transformed the Knicks into defensive juggernauts.

The Knicks own the 4th best defensive rating in the league, are 1st in points allowed at 104.7, 1st in opponents field goals allowed at 44 percent, and 1st in opponents 3-point percentage allowed at 33.6 percent.

The saying is that defense wins championships and even though the Knicks aren’t expected to advance deep in the playoffs, they are very capable of advancing to the 2nd round and giving any contender a run for their money.

This is not a team anyone would want to face in a 7-game series. The Knicks’ last playoff appearance was in 2013 when they lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It would be a breath of fresh air to finally see a playoff game featuring the Knicks inside Madison Square Garden after so many years.

Tom Thibodeau’s impact on the New York Knicks

Thibodeau has brought stability and accountability to a franchise that so desperately needed a change as he has taken the Knicks from mediocrity to respectability as he has laid a solid defensive foundation.

Thibodeau’s fingerprints are all over this squad as they have been adept at icing and stopping pick-and-rolls in their tracks, defending the paint, and rotating to defend 3-point attempts. The Knicks have been playing with grit and resolve and are finding ways to win. The Knicks have averaged 33.6 wins since 2000 and Thibodeau has surpassed that total in his first season with the team.

Thibodeau should get strong consideration for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award as he currently has guided the Knicks on a 9-game winning streak and has them playing like a team on a mission. Thibodeau’s presence has positively affected this team as a whole but Julius Randle and RJ Barrett have appeared to make leaps and bounds under his guidance.

Randle has had a career resurgence this season becoming a first-time all-star and an All-NBA candidate. His numbers have dramatically improved from his career statistics of 17.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists to 23.9 points, 10.5 rebounds with 6.1 assists.

When the Knicks signed Randle last season, it seemed as if the Knicks were just filling a spot on their roster since the front office failed to acquire one of the big-name free agents available. Luckily, for the Knicks, Thibodeau was able to utilize Randle’s talents and has helped him fulfill his enormous potential we were expecting to see ever since he was drafted No. 7 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Barrett has also made tremendous strides under Thibodeau. He has taken positive steps forward in his development since his rookie season and has made major improvements in his game. Barrett was drafted by the Knicks with the hopes of him becoming the franchise’s next great player and appears to be headed in the right direction.

Many criticized Barrett and felt that he underperformed last year and felt that he should have played much better especially playing on such a bad team as the Knicks. Even though he was drafted with lofty expectations, it still takes the right situation with the right coach as Thibodeau excels at placing young players in a position to maximize their talents.

Thibodeau had similar success in his first stint as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls. This Knicks team is constructed similar to those Bulls teams as their identity was making plays on the defensive end and making the hustle plays that mattered. Let’s not forget how Thibodeau took a young Derrick Rose and molded him into an MVP while surrounding him with players and a system that complemented his skill set.

The same could very well be done for Barrett as he and Randle form a formidable tandem, and with Randle just entering his prime, these two players can become the foundation of this team for years to come. Thibodeau would be most deserving of the  Coach of the Year Award for leading this turnaround.

The recent success of the Knicks may very well make them an attractive destination for big-name free agents. Hiring Thibodeau was the smartest decision general manager Leon Rose has made a sit has already begun to pay dividends earlier than expected.

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Once again, there is excitement in the air concerning the Knicks. There is excitement in the air about playoff basketball returning to the Garden and somewhere out there, we know Spike Lee must be proud.