The New York Knicks have been steadily improving over the past few seasons, and now they look like legitimate contenders for a high seed in their conference. While it’s still challenging to label the Knicks as championship contenders, under favorable circumstances and with rapid progress from key players, New York could surprise.
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Results of the previous season: 5th place, 47-35.
Incoming – Dante DiVincenzo.
Remaining – Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Jericho Sims, Isaiah Hartenstein, Mitchell Robinson.
What to expect from the team
Before the start of the previous season, I mentioned that the 2022/23 season would be crucial for Tom Thibodeau as the Knicks’ coach. In the end, Thibodeau, for the second time in three years, silenced his critics and even exceeded the wildest expectations of the team’s fans. Unlike the disappointing 2021 playoffs, the Knicks managed to sensationally defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games in the first round and put up a significant fight against the future finalists from Miami.
Thibodeau seems to have a straightforward recipe for success: hard work and more hard work. However, there’s a noticeable tendency that careful observers have noticed: the more the Knicks dominate offensively, the higher their chances of winning. This transformation has seen the Knicks move from being the 22nd best offense in the league in the 2020/21 season to having the 4th best offense in the 2022/23 season.
Players like Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein, who combined for 476 offensive rebounds, had the highest mark in the league among duos. This allowed the Knicks to rank 3rd in categories like rebounds, offensive rebounds, and second-chance points. Julius Randle also had a phenomenal season, averaging 25+10. The success was also partially due to a successful trade for Josh Hart, who re-signed with the Knicks on an 81/4 contract. Hart seemed tailor-made for Thibodeau’s style of play.
Donte DiVincenzo, who signed a decent 50/4 contract, is yet another example of a Thibodeau player. He’s a hardworking player who excels at a little bit of everything. He’ll fit well into the Knicks’ rotation and further strengthen the team’s backcourt.
Season’s Joker: Jalen Brunson
Last season, Brunson effortlessly led the team’s offense, becoming one of the most significant discoveries of the regular season. He averaged 24 points, 6 assists, shooting 49% from the field, and 41.6% from beyond the arc on 4.7 attempts per game. In the playoffs, he transformed into a monster, scoring 28 points and often single-handedly carrying the team, especially in the series against Miami. All while making fun of not just his 104/4 contract critics but also the Mavericks, who didn’t want to pay him almost half as much and are now paying Kyrie Irving 120/3.
In summary, the Knicks have assembled a competitive roster that aims to outperform last season. It’s a pity that Obi Toppin left the team. The next step should be to get rid of Evan Fournier’s contract, and perhaps, along with the available assets (including 22 picks, 11 of which are in the first round), start targeting disgruntled superstars who might become available in the near future. Such stars always emerge.
Prediction: 6th place in the Eastern Conference.