Prior to the 2020-21 NBA season, the New York Knicks were projected to miss the playoffs yet again, extending the franchise’s drought to nine years.
The team would continue its lengthy rebuild, hoping the 2021 draft pick would finally help turn the franchise around. And in conjunction with its own pick, New York has the rights to the Dallas Mavericks’ first-round pick as a result of the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
After securing two prospects — or packaging the picks to garner a greater value — the Knicks would likely aim to sign a top-tier free agent after striking out in previous offseasons.
The New York Knicks finished their best season since 2012-13. Here are three players that exceeded expectations along the way.
From there, the franchise would hypothetically be turned around. The Knicks would no longer be viewed as a dreadful team, sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
However, these are simply expectations and predictions from before the season. And for the most part, they were fair assessments. Julius Randle headed into year two with the Knicks after a disappointing first season, and Tom Thibodeau returned to coaching after being fired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in January 2019.
But now it’s July and while the Knicks are in summer mode, those expectations were shattered over the course of the season.
The Knicks increased their win total by 20, going from 21-45 in 2019-20 to 41-31 in 2020-21. Furthermore, this garnered the franchise its first playoff berth since 2013.
As the 4-seed, the Knicks played the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, and that was the end to New York’s historic season.
Led by All-Star Randle, the Knicks crushed team expectations. Additionally, multiple players stood out as they exceeded their preseason media projections.
Here are the three Knicks players that exceeded expectations in the 2020-21 season.