Knicks basketball is back and looking to answer questions after last year’s disappointing season. So what did we learn?
The New York Knicks are back and better than ever (for now) after securing a resounding victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night in their first preseason game.
From new pieces like Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein to more familiar faces like RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and others, there was much to like about the Knicks’ return to the hardwood. Here are three major takeaways from their first victory of the 2022-23 NBA (pre)season.
Jalen Brunson has arrived.
Brunson looked incredibly comfortable. He might have had the most pressure on him considering it was just a preseason game, but being that he’s the first true point guard the Knicks have had starting in quite some time, all eyes were on him. And he truly showed out. In just 20 minutes he scored 16 points on 7-9 shooting and some excellent reads on defense that let him draw several offensive fouls.
He also just made everyone else on the floor look good around him. He allowed Robinson to move around in the paint, Barrett to drive and post up comfortably once he got touches from Brunson, and also opened up Randle’s game both in the post and around the perimeter.
The whole appeal to bringing Brunson in was to finally have a floor general to assist Barrett, Randle, and Robinson in their quest to finally look like a solid starting unit. And thankfully, it looks like Brunson will be able to help with that.
The Jalen Brunson special pic.twitter.com/326hz2REMD
— KnicksNation (@KnicksNation) October 4, 2022
A top-rated defense may be back, starting with Mitchell Robinson.
The Blockness Monster returned after signing a nice extension with New York this offseason. He only played 18 minutes, but still managed to record three blocks and four rebounds. Even head coach Tom Thibodeau commented on his accolades in the paint during the postgame, saying he is a “freak athlete.”
“The things he can do are special,” said Thibodeau of Robinson.
He most certainly looked to still be a threat on offense, too, especially with the addition of Brunson spacing the floor out for him to work on his post moves. We’ve known he can catch a lob, but his ability to score against other centers has been a question mark for him during his development with the team. Tonight, we saw that come to fruition.
MITCH WITH A BLOCK AND RANDLE WITH A SLAM!! pic.twitter.com/XGxVlLpEzu
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 4, 2022
Other standouts included Brunson and McBride, with the latter really showing out in his limited minutes. McBride gathered up a mind-boggling six steals and four rebounds and applied pressure during almost every defensive set he played. You’d have to imagine that Thibodeau will be keeping his eyes peeled for similar performances the rest of this preseason from McBride and other lower-rung rotation players who could help to elevate the team’s defense back to the upper echelon in the league.
But truly, his defense is what shined through. You could almost feel his threat in the paint reverberating to the rest of the court, with his teammates following his lead and locking in on their assignments, for the most part. The team’s overall defensive intensity was there for the entire contest, allowing for the offense, while stagnant at times, to build up an insurmountable lead early in the third. It’s a sign of good things to come with questions that were swirling about the team’s ability to get back to their top-four defense caliber of play again this season.
The bench is once again looking elite.
One of the least worrisome aspects of the Knicks coming into their first preseason game was their bench unit. With Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Derrick Rose, and now Isaiah Hartenstein to choose from, the depth was obvious. But we needed to see it in action.
They did not disappoint tonight.
Not only was their defense on point, but their offense looked solid as well. One player to note considering he played 27 minutes off the bench is Hartenstein, one of New York’s new additions this offseason. He hit a couple of three-pointers, had some nice plays at the rim, and was running up and down the floor with intensity. He only recorded one assist, but his passing game is a very intriguing aspect of his game that Thibodeau and the bench will surely be looking to exploit as the season goes on.
Aside from Hartenstein, Quickley and Toppin looked fantastic. Toppin had several signature dunks, along with some questionable airballs. Quickley, likely aware of his biggest area of improvement offensively, consistently looked to get to the rim, as opposed to relying exclusively on his shooting from deep. Both definitely need to get into a better groove as the preseason goes on and as Thibodeau goes through different rotations, but the impact they could have together alongside Hartenstein, McBride, and Rose was evident as the bench scored 54 points out of the Knicks’ 117 total points scored.
We now look forward to their next game against the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
»Read: Derrick Rose’s future in New York
»Read: The 2022-2023 Knicks rotation roundup