Mark Strotman for Bookies.com

By Mark Strotman | | 5 mins

Are New York Knicks A Worthy Bet To Win Eastern Conference?

Are New York Knicks A Worthy Bet To Win Eastern Conference?
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The New York Knicks opened the season as hot as any team in the NBA, using a dominant offense to power themselves to a 5-1 record that included victories over East contenders in the Celtics, Sixers and Bulls. New York once again looked like a contender in the East as they did during its resurgence from a season ago.

But it’s been all downhill for Tom Thibodeau’s group in November, limping to a 3-6 record that includes a handful of head-scratching losses to the Pacers, Cavs and Magic. Though not a death sentence, those losses aren’t exactly indicative of a team ready to compete with the likes of the Bucks, Nets and Heat in the East.

And betting sites agree. New York’s most recent rough stretch has plummeted their odds at sportsbooks to win the East to +3000, and their title odds are double that at +6000 at DraftKings sportsbook.

Fourteen different teams have better NBA title odds than the Knicks, and that seems fair for a team that has a ceiling of very good, but probably not great or title-worthy.

Can the Knicks flip the script again and get back on track by the time New York sports betting launches online? That’s the question.

Struggling Defense Can’t Carry Average Offense

The Knicks shocked the NBA betting world last season by winning 41 games on the foundation of an elite defense that ranked fourth in efficiency. Combined with the slowest pace in the NBA, the Knicks slowly bullied their opponents each night and allowed just 104.7 points per game, the lowest mark in the league that season and dating as far back as 2018.

But 2021-22 has been a different story. The Knicks are tied for 18th in defensive rating (108.4) and have allowed the 18th most points per game. That in and of itself is not a death sentence – their defensive rating is similar to the Bucks (108.4), Mavs (108.0) and Lakers (107.2), and it’s better than the Sixers (109.6).

The issue is that the Knicks don’t have an offense that can make up for a defense that is anything less than elite. New York currently ranks 23rd in efficiency during its nine-game slump, and though scoring is down around the league, it’s still staggering to see that they’ve been held to 100 points or less in six of those games. If the defense isn’t going to lock down like it was a season ago, there’s very little chance the Knicks can score in a seven-game series with the top-tier contenders.


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Julius Randle Unable To Replicate All-Star Success

Are New York Knicks A Worthy Bet To Win Eastern Conference? 1

Stars win in today’s NBA. It’s that simple. So, it wasn’t a coincidence that the Knicks had their best winning percentage in nearly a decade the same season Julius Randle made the leap to All-Star status. Randle was outstanding in 2021, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists on his way to an All-Star berth and the Most Improved Player award.

But 2021-22 hasn’t been kind to the 27-year-old. He certainly isn’t playing poorly, but his numbers have dipped to 19.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists. He’s shooting worse from the field and hasn’t gone to the free-throw line as often. Again, not awful numbers in the least, but this Knicks team relies so heavily on him that they’re really feeling it when he’s not on.

Randle is averaging 21.1 point on 44% shooting in eight wins and just 18.3 points on 37.5% shooting in seven losses. They’ll need to get him going if they have any prayer of contending in the East.


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Eastern Conference Incredibly Top-Heavy

As if the Knicks’ issues weren’t a big enough problem, the Eastern Conference is loaded at the top, and the latest NBA odds show that. The Nets are 11-5 and aren’t even playing their best basketball (and are doing it without Kyrie Irving), the Heat have the second best record in the league and the Bucks have withstood significant injuries and appear to be ack to their normal dominant selves.

Even teams like the Bulls and Wizards (both 10-5) are in contention, and we haven’t even mentioned the Sixers (9-7) and Celtics (7-8), both of whom have the frontline talent to compete in the East.

Even if the Knicks were playing as well as last year, they’re very much a second-tier team in the East. A best-case scenario like last year (in which they didn’t make it out of the first round) still has them needing some real luck to even think about a Finals berth. Until we see a massive shake-up or seriously improved play, there isn’t much value in the Knicks at betting apps.

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About the Author

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com
Mark Strotman
Mark is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Bulls and the NBA since 2012. His work has appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune and Yahoo Sports.