For all the consternation and discourse this season, the Knicks are right on track with their more optimistic pre-season projections.
Right now the Knicks are exactly what they’re supposed to be.
There is always much discourse about the New York Knicks and the never-ending debates about how the team should be run or what direction they should take when it comes to the draft and free agents and trades, but at the end of the day, that’s all speculation and hypotheticals. Fans will always complain about who’s playing, what the coach is doing, or even what moves the front office is making… or lack thereof. The truth is, whatever flaw fans or analysts perceive with the Knicks is just an amalgamation of all those things.
The 2023 season is a few games past the halfway mark. The Knicks have played an even 50 games thus far and are 27-23. Things can always be better but they could also be much worse; even when dealing with ticky-tack injuries like RJ Barrett’s cut finger or more serious ones like Mitchell Robinson’s thumb surgery, the Knicks have managed to keep their heads above .500 and are in the hunt for a playoff spot. New York is exactly what their record says they are. Sometimes they’ll get hot and rattle off four or five wins in a row but they’ll also slump and drop some games along the way. That’s what middle-of-the-pack teams do. The Knicks have had some heartbreaking losses and some exhilarating victories. While they do have some very talented players and younger ones developing nicely, it’s clear that something is still missing.
As the trade deadline approaches, it’s natural that folks begin to wonder what the Knicks need to get over the proverbial hump this season. There is no debating that New York is still in need of a star to raise their ceiling. There is no denying that the Knicks have some extremely capable players, even able to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on occasion but the upper-echelon teams have undeniable stars leading the way. The Knicks have Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, who, to their credit, have put together All-Star caliber performances this season and are the reason the team is still relevant but they can’t do it alone, sometimes they need help closing games, which has been a real bugaboo for the Knicks the season.
The truth is a savior isn’t coming to rescue the Knicks right now but they have played as well as they can with the talent they have; they are an extremely competitive team that sometimes has its lapses. The Knicks deserve credit for signing Jalen Brunson because who knows where they’d be without a legitimate threat at the point of attack. Brunson has also allowed Julius Randle to return to playing All-Star-level basketball. He’s provided relief from the burden of ball handling and creating. He’s also shifted the focus of opposing defenses from Randle since he presents his own set of problems. But it still feels like the Knicks are a player away from making them contenders.
Despite the issues people may have with the roster or the coach or the front office, the fact is the Knicks have played as well as they can with the requisite talent on the team. Considering the teams that are ahead of them in the Eastern Conference they are exactly where they’re supposed to be and could easily leapfrog or fall behind the three or four teams they are in fighting with for positioning. The East is extremely difficult this year – for context, the Knicks are currently the seventh seed; if they were playing in the Western Conference they’d be tied for the fourth seed. So, while New York is still a ways away from truly contending for a championship, they are headed in the right direction and aren’t an easy out by any means. What is important to recognize about this current Knicks team is that they are young and can continue to thrive going forward. It may not happen under this coach or even the current front office but if the Knicks can maneuver and actually land a star player the sky’s the limit for this core group if they continue to play winning basketball.
»Read: The Knicks Trade Deadline Primer
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»Read: Conference play check-in on 2023 Knicks’ draft targets