The play-in tournament is set to start Tuesday night with four Eastern Conference teams squaring off.
The Knicks were not expected to be competitive during the 2020-21 NBA season. The team was mired in a rebuild and had hired Tom Thibodeau in the offseason to be its new coach. This was the veteran's third stop on the head coaching circuit, and it was expected that he would need time to turn things around.
So this is a battle of up-and-coming young squads, rather than the established championship contenders in the Eastern Conference’s top three. The five best players in the series — Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins — are all making their playoff debuts, with an average age of 23.8.