New Year, New Knicks! With the start of a new year and a new win streak, what can the Knicks resolve to accomplish to maximize their 2023? 

A new year has arrived. This time last year, the New York Knicks were in a different place. The team was looking for any answer to turn around a failing season. The fun of the 2020-21 season had worn off, moves made over the summer had flopped, and the team was still in search of a star.

This year things are better. Jalen Brunson, the big-ticket signing of this past summer, has been everything he was advertised to be. Brunson’s play has helped give the Knick offense structure and a reliable scorer. Quentin Grimes helped transform the starting lineup, providing all the little things that a lineup featuring RJ Barrett, Randle, and Brunson needed. Grimes brings the same defensive importance on the perimeter that Mitchell Robinson brings to the paint, while not needing much to get his shot off.

A good starting lineup on a Tom Thibodeau team is usually a good thing, considering all five guys are likely to play close to 40 minutes a night. When fully healthy, these Knicks are a solid team a few moves away from being noticed in the East. 

As 2023 gets underway, the Knicks should appreciate the progress, but continue to look ahead.

Give Julius His Flowers

Julius Randle heard MVP chants at Madison Square Garden on the second day of 2023, a scene that felt only possible in NBA2K after the infamous thumbs-down moment. The incident, as it felt at the time, was a one-off, but enough for Randle to lose the fan base for the rest of the season. 

Regardless of your opinion on Randle, he has been objectively good this season, and great over his last 15 games. In that span, he has averaged 28.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. The outside shot that disappeared on him last season has returned. On the season, he is shooting 34.9% from deep, and 36.4% over his last 15 on a whopping 9.3 attempts per game.

Beyond the numbers, the consistent effort is there. One underrated moment in the blowout win against the Suns was with the game well in hand, Randle read a lazy pass and stole it, inciting cheers from the crowd. That type of effort is what the fans didn’t get last season at all times, and the core reason Randle had to crawl back into their good graces.

Now the fans, and most importantly Randle, can enjoy the bounce-back season he is having. Jalen Brunson has proved to be the remedy many expected he could be. Without the responsibility of having to run the offense, Randle has played noticeably freer the whole season, and the success has him back on the All-Star track.

From the start of the season, the feeling towards Randle was when and to which team could he be dealt. Now, the conversation could have shifted back to him being a core piece of another playoff-bound Knicks team.

Figure Out How to Beat the Zone

Few things are more comical than the Knicks’ inability to beat a zone defense. Any time an opponent switches to zone, it’s like someone on the Knick bench turns on the orb of confusion.

Develop a plan. Just do something.

Make Preparations for Life After Tom Thibodeau

The win streak was extremely fun, and a direct result of Tom Thibodeau. Having said that, may Thibodeau’s third year be his last. We have reached that stage of the Thibodeau experience where the stubbornness becomes intolerable, and the predictability becomes exhausting.

This season has often felt like one step forward and two steps back. The eight-game winning streak, immediately followed by a five-game losing streak. He overplays the starters and never veers off his usual game plan. The team’s record is a reflection of these peaks and valleys, with the team sitting at 20-18.

If playoffs are the requirement for Thibodeau’s survival, the answer may be known by the middle of January. From January 23rd on, the team goes through the gauntlet of their schedule facing the Celtics twice, Sixers twice, Nets twice, the Cavaliers, and the Pelicans. If that stretch ends with the playoffs out of reach, it is hard to make any argument to keep Thibodeau beyond the season.

Keep Running with Quickley and McBride Backcourt

The Texas triangle road trip was tough to watch, but it did force Thibodeau to try new combinations. Immanuel Quickley and Deuce McBride were bumped to the starting lineup, sharing the backcourt for extended time for the first time. The pairing on paper feels like one of the more fun combos Thibodeau can run out.

Quickley and McBride are the two most chaotic players on the roster. They also happen to be two of the better defensive players on the team, who both love to run. McBride is already  a top-tier ball hawk in the passing lane, and Quickley has a prowess to pickpocket. 

As the backcourt of the second unit, which will have a healthy Obi Toppin at some point, the Quickley-Deuce combo has the chance to run the opposing team up and down the floor. Unlike in years past, the starting lineup is very good, which lessens the load for the second unit. Their mission is producing in short spurts, a goal these two can handle.

Free Cam Reddish

Just end this, for everyone’s sake. Tom Thibodeau would rather forfeit the game than play Cam Reddish. That point has been made abundantly clear. Thibodeau removed him from the rotation to make room for Grimes and McBride and proceeded to pretend he does not exist. Fellow rotation exiles Derrick Rose and Evan Fournier found their way back to the floor with the team undermanned, but not the only member of the banished trio capable of providing any trade value.

Reddish instead has kept his warm-ups on. The presumed reason is trade discussions involving Reddish are ongoing. It is hard to deny the thought process if that is indeed the reason. Reddish and the injury bug are great friends, but the good minutes he put in have other teams interested. The faster the Knicks and Reddish can part, the better.  

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»Read: Mitchell Robinson Has Been Key For Knicks Run

»Read: Miles McBride Continues to Thrive in Any Context

»Read: Obi Toppin’s Injury and its Implications