With a new season of Knicks basketball rapidly approaching, let’s take a look at some key focuses for New York’s key players heading into training camp.
The NBA season is almost upon us and can’t come soon enough. The New York Knicks might be the final hope for New Yorkers to have some sort of sports relevance for the rest of the calendar year.
It has been very bad for a while around these parts, beginning with disastrous showings from the Mets and the Yankees that ended with both teams missing the MLB postseason. That was followed by an unimaginably catastrophic start for the Jetsm who lost Aaron Rodgers to a torn Achilles for the year just four snaps into their first game. And finally, we have the Giants’ underwhelming start after an offseason filled with much anticipation.
With NBA training camps opening next week, the Knicks enter the 2023-24 campaign with some high exceptions. After a pleasantly surprising season where the Knicks finally found their franchise point guard in Jalen Brunson, won 47 games and reached the second round of the playoffs, the only direction to go is forward. The ‘Bockers also had a productive summer following their excellent season.
The Knicks shored up their bench by signing some impactful players. New York beefed up their wing depth with Donte DiVincenzo, another Villanova alum joining his college buddies Brunson and Josh Hart who can make his presence felt on both sides of the court. They also snagged former Timberwolf and New York native Nathan Knight to back up an already stellar frontcourt in an attempt to replace the beloved Obi Toppin after shipping him off to the Indiana Pacers for two second-round picks.
While the front office was busy making moves in the summer, some notable Knicks were overseas competing in the FIBA World Cup representing their respective nations and honing their skills in preparation for the NBA season. With all that over it’s time to look at what some of the most vital pieces on the Knicks can look to focus on to elevate themselves and the team.
Brunson’s impact during his first season in New York was almost immeasurable. He stepped under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and shined like few Knicks have. There isn’t much to say about him other than he is a star and has begun to cement himself as one of the true elite talents in the league.
It’s not that Brunson needs any motivation going into this coming season. But if he needs some, he should look at how he was snubbed from All-Star and All-NBA consideration despite putting up all-star caliber numbers. He averaged 24.0 points per game to go with 6.2 assists while shooting 49.1% from the field. During the playoffs in 11 games, he averaged 27.8 points and 5.6 assists. While there is no doubt that he will be at the top of his game silencing whatever detractors he has left, if any, should be at the top of his priority list this season.
Barrett is the definition of slow and steady. As diligent as ever, while he maybe hasn’t taken the leaps and bounds some folks have expected, he has gotten better every year. Entering his fifth NBA season, he has to start leaving a mark. Barrett must limit the spells of long cold streaks and become a more consistent player the Knicks can lean on. Being the third overall pick comes with expectations and for that reason, Barrett has become enigmatic. This past summer, though, he seemed to reach another level playing for Canada in the World Cup. When his team needed him to show up he did in big ways, leading Canada to upset over the United States in the bronze medal game.
The Knicks need FIBA RJ to translate over to the NBA. It’s hard to believe the former Duke standout has been in the NBA for five years already, still just 23 years old there is a lot of maturing left to do but the World Cup is any indication of what Barrett is becoming the Knicks don’t have much to worry about.
Love him or hate him, Julius Randle is good for the Knicks. Who knows how far New York would’ve gone in the playoffs if Randle wasn’t hobbled with an ankle injury? The now two-time All-Star and All-NBA recipient now has the help he needs. Randle has proven over and over again to be amongst the best big men in the league and now with a running mate like Brunson he doesn’t have to shoulder the weight of New York alone. As he continues to rehab from his ankle surgery, he knows he can defer to others.
Randle is not one for load management, if he can go — and it sounds like he can — he will go. But if the Knicks hope to make a run and build on their success Randle must be healthy. In both of New York’s playoff appearances with Randle, he has been hobbled and unable to perform at his peak. This season, it is imperative that he makes it to the finish line at full strength to give the Knicks the best opportunity to compete in the playoffs.
Immanuel Quickley, Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes
IQ has been a bright spot since he set foot in MSG. The Knicks, however, have some decisions to make. Heading into the season Quickley is in a contract year and he has to prove to the Knicks he’s worthy of a long and lucrative extension. While he had an excellent regular season playing in 81 games, averaging 14.9 points, and was in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year, he was a shell of himself in playoffs seeing a reduction in production and playing time. IQ knows that he has something to prove, that he’s worth keeping and the Knicks go to him in the most crucial moments.
Josh Hart was the godsend for the Knicks at the trade deadline. He almost single-handedly changed the course of the season upon his arrival in February. For his contributions, the Knicks rewarded Hart with a new deal to keep him in New York long-term. Hart is the heart and soul of the Knicks. His infectious play sets the temple defensively and is a vocal leader on the team, and the Knicks just need him to keep being just that. Playing for Team USA this past summer Hart’s dedication left an impression on the coaching staff:
Steve Kerr on Josh Hart:
"At one point, Erik Spoelstra said that some players get 50/50 balls. Josh gets 30/70 balls."
— Donatas Urbonas (@Urbodo) August 28, 2023
Quentin Grimes can sometimes seem like an afterthought with all the names on the Knicks. But he has the ability to be a dynamic two-way player, already becoming a defensive dynamo he can lock up whoever but he is the starting shooting guard, a position historically reserved for scoring threats. While Grimes can light the scoreboard on any given night, he needs to show off this ability more consistently. The Knicks will need more from QG on the offensive side this season. He doesn’t have to take over a game but with defenses trying to corral the dual-threaten of Randle and Brunson on a nightly basis if the ball finds its way to his hands he needs to be able to knock down shots more often than not.